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Mas religioso que Ricoco no hay , le dicen mas que nadie!
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A scandal is brewing that connects rightwing Cuban exiles in the United States with violent Mexican drug gangs trained by the U.S. military. The story first broke in the leftwing Mexico City daily, La Jornada. On June 12, 33 undocumented Cuban immigrants and four Central Americans were picked up by Mexican immigration authorities. A gang of armed men held up the bus transporting the immigrants and kidnapped them.

However, the incident in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas was no common crime, because within a short period of time 18 of the migrants materialized safe and sound in Texas. What the U.S. government will now do with them is not yet clear. The whereabouts of the other migrants are not known.

Mexican authorities, embarrassed by having their prisoners snatched in such a blatant way, opened a major investigation which so far has resulted in the arrest of four people. Two of these were low level Mexican officials who are accused of accepting bribes in order to allow the caper to go forward unhindered.

The other two arrested are Nairobi Claro and Noriel Veloz, Cubans who, according to La Jornada, admitted they are operatives of an anti-Castro group, the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), based in Miami.

The Cuban American National Foundation issued a statement denying any involvement or connection with Claro and Veloz, and demanded a retraction and apology from La Jornada. The reporter and newspaper are standing by their story. La Jornada reported that Claro and Veloz, who were arrested off the Yucatan Peninsula by Mexico’s Navy, were part of the group that brought the Cubans into Mexico in the first place. Claro and Veloz refused to be released on bail for fear that assassins from CANF will kill them when they step out into the street.

The Cuban government has for some time been warning of links between the Gulf Cartel, which controls much of the drug trade along the U.S.-Mexico border, and what it calls the “Miami Mafia” of violent rightwing Cuban exiles.

A variety of Mexican media report that the actual snatch job was carried out by “Los Zetas,” a criminal gang of ex-army officers trained by the U.S. for anti-drug action. Once trained, the Zetas broke away from the Mexican military and formed one of the most formidable and violent gangs involved with drug smuggling on the U.S.-Mexico border. If indeed Los Zetas were responsible for the snatch job and for slipping the Cubans across the U.S. border, it has serious implications for the Bush administration.

The U.S. Congress is on the way to approving a $400 million package of military and crime fighting aid for Mexico. President Bush had lobbied for this package, called the “Merida Initiative,” on the basis of the threat to the U.S. posed by Mexican drug gangs. Now it appears the coddled Cuban exile organizations allied to rightwing U.S. politicians may have a hand in the border carnage.

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MEDICARE FRAUD... A former scam artist tells how it works !Angel Castillo Jr., a convicted drug trafficker who found his calling in healthcare fraud, offered an inside look at Medicare corruption in Miami-Dade.

Fugitives suspected of Medicare fraud

Gallery | Fugitives suspected of fraud
Similar stories:
Medicare fraud rampant in South Florida

First in a series

Whenever Alexander McCray lights up his crack pipe, U.S. taxpayers help pay for his habit.

McCray has defrauded Medicare by selling his government-issued health card number to private clinics in exchange for kickbacks of $150 to $300 a visit -- as often as three times a day, three times a week over seven years, according to federal records and his own admission.

Nurse takes down phony equipment dealers

The sign on Suite No. 315 says ``Open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.''

But the Hialeah medical equipment business -- suspected of billing the U.S. government a few million dollars in bogus Medicare claims -- is locked on a recent weekday visit by federal agents.

Angel Diaz, a handyman for the property manager, unlocks the door for FBI agent Brian Waterman. He spots a small table with tiny boxes of glucose blood tests for diabetics.

Cuban accent gives away Medicare fraud fugitive

Alcides Garcia's thick Cuban accent was a dead giveaway.

In February, Garcia went to a shipping company in the Canary Islands to have his personal belongings sent from Miami to the Spanish island off the northwestern coast of Africa.

''The business owner became suspicious because he kept saying he was Mexican, but the owner detected he had a heavy Cuban accent,'' said Miami FBI special agent Judy Orihuela.

BY JAY WEAVERjweaver@MiamiHerald.com

He dropped out of high school in ninth grade. Got busted for carrying a load of cocaine. And dabbled in marijuana grow houses.

Angel Castillo Jr. finally found his criminal calling as an entrepreneur in South Florida's multibillion-dollar underground industry -- Medicare fraud.

''I started off driving a Ford Ranger and I ended up driving a Range Rover,'' said Castillo, 33, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for defrauding millions from the government's healthcare program.

He is cooperating with the U.S. attorney's office and FBI to seek a reduction in his sentence, which is eight times longer than the average Medicare defendant's prison term.

Castillo, who grew up in a Cuban-American family in the Fontainebleau section of West Miami-Dade, controlled about a dozen medical equipment companies -- all incorporated in other people's names to hide his ownership interest so that federal authorities could not trace the businesses to him.

Castillo said he paid a premium for at least three of those companies because they came with recently arrived immigrants already registered as straw owners with Medicare.

Among them: Miami's Garcia Medical Supply Inc., which was headed in June 2006 by Anabel Esquivel, according to state corporation records. She entered the United States as an undocumented Cuban migrant four years earlier.

With Esquivel as Castillo's straw owner, Garcia Medical Supply submitted $3.6 million in false bills with Medicare between June and September 2006, according to federal claims records. Esquivel, who was living in a Hialeah Housing Authority apartment at the time, could not be reached for comment because she has returned to Cuba, according to tenants in her former unit. She has not been charged with any crime, and Garcia Medical is no longer active.

Another one of Castillo's businesses with a straw owner, Rodan Durable Medical Equipment Inc. in Hialeah, billed Medicare for $5.2 million in phony claims between August and November 2006, federal claims records show. Rodan is not in business now either.


Esquivel and other immigrants -- some of whom were smuggled into the United States, according to federal agents and immigration records -- provided extra protection to Medicare scammers from authorities, especially if they returned to Cuba after a short stay.

''I purchased three companies like that,'' Castillo said during a recent interview at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami. ``If you want the straws to go back to Cuba, you have to pay the sellers of the companies an extra $30,000.''

FBI agents and other federal authorities confirmed his story.

In total, Castillo was convicted of billing $48 million in false Medicare claims through eight of his medical equipment companies in 2005 and 2006 -- though the three businesses using Cuban migrants as straw owners were not cited in his plea deal, according to court records and federal authorities. His eight healthcare companies raked in about $8 million from the government health insurance program, according to court records. He personally pocketed more than $2 million.

Six other business associates were convicted with him on Medicare fraud charges.

Castillo admits he had no particular skills in the healthcare field. Then again, none were needed. After he served a couple of years in prison on a 1995 cocaine trafficking conviction in Georgia, Castillo learned a trade as an electrician. By the time his five-year probation was over, he was in the marijuana grow-house business.

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Cuban American National Foundation and People Smuggling


The huge business of trafficking Cubans to Mexico and Florida has become a very dangerous enterprise since the Cuban-American mafia based in the US and Mexico began to control it a few years ago.

Protected by the Cuban Adjustment Act, those who arrive in the United States through any channel have the right to legalize their stay in that country, while, at the same time, the US fails to meet its agreement with Cuba to grant 20,000 visas a year.

People from no other nation are accepted in this manner by the US, which has millions of illegal immigrants, often hunted down like animals, sent to jail, or expelled to their countries of origin.

People drawn by the mirage of capitalism expose themselves to numerous dangers which, in many cases, have led to the death of one or several of those who embark on the adventure without considering the consequences.

The Cuban-American smugglers are programmed to commit acts of savagery or of contempt towards the lives of others. They’ll do anything to collect the negotiated amount of money (between US $10,000 and 15,000 dollars per person) or to prevent being caught during the smuggling operations.

Several recent events bear witness to that aggressiveness. On June 16, the crew members of a smugglers’ speedboat, discovered by the Cuban coastguard, rammed a small boat with 20 persons on board, which were trying to reach the traffickers to leave the country illegally.

Showing a complete disdain for human life, the traffickers sunk the boat in order to force the coastguard to concentrate on saving people. The result was two dead people: an 11 year-old boy and a girl of 20. The rest were rescued. According to statements by those involved in this act, their relatives in Miami pay US $10,000 each to transport them to Mexico and from there to the US border, where they would request "political asylum."

One of them, Ramon Diaz, who miraculously saved his life, said he had visited the US Interests Section in Havana to request a visa to travel to the US and see his three children living there, but was rejected. In his despair, he accepted the proposal of traveling illegally.

A few days before this event, on June 12th, 33 Cubans, and 4 Central Americans caught without identification were being transported by Mexican authorities from Chiapas to Quintana Roo in a bus guarded by the National Migration Institute. They were intercepted on the road by several vans with armed men in them, who kidnapped them.

The Mexican newspaper Por Esto, denounced that "members of the Miami cartel that operates in the Mexican states of Yucatan, Quintana Roo and Tabasco" were involved in the kidnapping, and that "the 33 Cubans represented US $330,000 that had been collected prior to their arrival on Mexican shores."

On July 3, the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo published a long report explaining that organized mafias take Cubans by motorboats from Cuba to Mexico and then smuggle them into the United States using the same routes they use for drug trafficking.


This is how the beaches of the Mexican states of Quintana Roo and Yucatan become the starting point of this highly lucrative and growing business, which leaves profits of at least 80 million dollars a year.

In at least five cities of Mexico’s southern border, affirms El Tiempo, there are organizations devoted to the traffic of undocumented Cubans who want to travel to the US. Illegal immigrants arrive by three routes, states the report. Some are picked up directly in Cuba with speedboats that take them to Mexican coasts; others arrive by land through Belize and Guatemala; and a third group does it by airplane.

For its part, the Mexican newspaper El Universal asserts that close to 100 Cubans arrive every month in the Federal District by air, coming from Central and South American countries, and it’s known that with help from airport security personnel they go from the international to the domestic flight area, where there are no controls.

But the well-paid business originated a war between mafia groups to control it, and assassinations and acts of revenge began to occur. From March, 2006 to June, 2007, more than seven Cuban-American ringleaders linked to the CANF were assassinated in Mexico by members of the Foundation themselves or by Mexican drug traffickers who fight for the business of the illegal immigrants.

Several newspapers have denounced that besides the CANF, Mexican gangs participating in the human trafficking include the Gulf Cartel and its operations arm, Los Zetas; Los Amigos de Patricio; and La Comitiva, made up by five groups, among them the one from Sinaloa, which is one of the most dangerous.

One of the first acts of revenge was against Cuban-American Alfredo Barcelo, which took place in October, 2006, at the El Ciclon bar, in downtown Cancun. Then, in September, 2007, came that of Maximiliano Reyna, known as Richard Agüero, riddled with bullets in the parking lot of the Coral Negro craft market, in Cancun’s hotel district. Three months later, his brother, Juan Carlos, was ambushed by an armed commando and also died.

In 2008, Cuban-Americans Luis Lazaro Lara, Manuel Duarte (a.k.a. El Many), and Humberto Febles, among other mafia bosses and members, were machine-gunned on the streets.

The latter was known as the head of the Cuban-American mafia in southeastern Mexico. One of his crimes was the kidnapping of entrepreneurs and Cubans who have come from the island or who live in Yucatan and Quintana Roo. Under the modality of "Express Kidnapping", the gangster developed a climate of fear among the relatives that pay them to take their relatives illegally from Cuba with the promise of giving them the so-called "American dream."

This is how he has come to hold Cubans whose relatives had economic resources in Miami or in places in Mexico, like Cancun, Merida and the Federal District. Febles and his group have kidnapped these people and then sent messages with requests of up to one million dollars in exchange for the lives of his victims.

According to unofficial data, in the last three months 17 persons were kidnapped in Cancun and Merida by the Cuba-American mafia, which collected huge sums that allowed them to open various businesses in different cities of the Yucatan peninsula. Others who don’t have money to pay for their trips [to the USA] are forced to distribute drugs, and women, to exercise prostitution, until they defray their expenses.

In one of its many investigative reports, Por Esto pointed out that Humberto had ordered to clear Yucatan and Quintana Roo of Cubans, an action that cost the lives of several members of the Miami-based CANF.


Later on, La Jornada newspaper reaffirmed that relationship when it pointed out that sources close to a Federal investigation said that the Mexican district attorneys had information linking the CANF to the Gulf Cartel, one of the most powerful gangs in Mexico, as well as to a network of paid assassins known as Los Zetas.

In its June 24 edition, the newspaper said that its sources affirmed that two men arrested in Mexico —Nairobi Claro and Noriel Veloz— told investigators that they were CANF members. The informers also indicated that the money that Claro and Veloz received from Cuban immigrants was used, among other purposes, to bribe Mexican authorities, buy false immigration documents, and pay the Zetas of the Gulf Cartel, thus guaranteeing the protection of the immigrants while they cross the US-Mexico border.

However, the president of the CANF, Francisco "Pepe" Hernández, denied the denunciations of the Mexican and Colombian newspapers linking the organization with the drug trafficking and immigrant smuggling cartels.

But no one believes "Pepe" Hernandez, who for years has been lying to mask its countless terrorist actions against Cuba, among them that of trying to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro at the Ibero-American Summit held in Margarita Island, Venezuela in 1997, by way of an armed group whom he provided with a powerful rifle with a telescopic sight.

According to the inquiries of the Attorney General’s Office, close to three dozen Cuban-Americans living in Florida make up this armed group, which has been engaged in the smuggling of people for four years now. The Employers’ Confederation of the Republic of Mexico (Coparmex) pointed out that networks devoted to drug trafficking,  trade, contraband and money laundry also participate in this business.

To further expose the connections between CANF and the Mexican cartels and the trafficking of Cubans, it’s noteworthy that Handy Cardentey Lemus, wanted by Federal authorities as the liaison of the Cuban-American mafia between Miami and the Yucatan Peninsula, was recently arrested on Isla Mujeres, Mexico. His arrivals in Progreso and Isla Mujeres on board of a luxury boat became frequent after the conflicts between the groups led by Manuel Diaz and Humberto Febles erupted.

In short, the main reasons for the existence of this dangerous business in the Gulf, which has in "unwanted passengers" being thrown overboard and abandoned at sea by the traffickers, are to be found both in the denial of entry visas to Cubans on the part of the US government, the impunity with which these groups operate in Mexico, and the Cuban Adjustment Act.

For the well being of many, this is a business that must be stopped.

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"la gran estafa"

Mas religioso que Ricoco no hay , le dicen mas que nadie!
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"la gran estafa"


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Nixon decidió invertir en Chile y dejó a un lado "el asunto cubano". 
Por Juan O. Tamayo

El presidente Richard Nixon y un dictador brasileño discutieron la coordinación de medidas para ayudar a los cubanos y chilenos a derrocar a Fidel Castro y Salvador Allende en 1971, según un memorando de la Casa Blanca recientemente desclasificado.

El general Emilio Garrastazú Médici presentó inicialmente la idea de ayudar a los cubanos anticastristas. "Estos hombres alegaron que necesitaban fuerzas para derrocar el régimen de Castro. Se planteó la pregunta de si podíamos ayudarlos'', expresa el memorando, escrito por el entonces asesor de Seguridad Nacional Henry Kissinger.

Nixon "reflexionó sobre la pregunta y dijo que pensaba que debíamos ayudar, mientras no fuese algo que no pudiéramos apoyar y mientras nuestra participación no fuese evidente'', indicó el documento, según el cual Médici concordó.

La versión de Kissinger de la visita de Médici a la Casa Blanca el 9 de diciembre de 1971 se escribió "para el archivo del Presidente'' y era secreto máximo. El documento fue desclasificado el 4 de septiembre del 2008 y hecho público en julio como parte de una publicación del Departamento de Estado sobre la política exterior del país.

El Archivo de Seguridad Nacional (NSA), un instituto no gubernamental de investigación con sede en Washington, presentó el memorando y documentos relacionados el domingo en su página de internet en www.nsarchive.org.

El derechista Médici, quien gobernó Brasil entre 1969 y 1974, falleció en 1985. Nixon renunció a la presidencia en 1974 en medio del escándalo Watergate y falleció en 1994. Salvador Allende, el presidente izquierdista de Chile, fue derrocado y murio en un cruento golpe de Estado militar respaldado por Estados Unidos en 1973.

El memorando de Kissinger muestra que fue Nixon quien planteó el tema de Allende durante la reunión, al pedirle a Médici su opinión sobre la situación en Chile. "Médici dijo que Allende seria derrocado ... [Nixon] entonces preguntó si [Médici] pensaba que las fuerzas armadas chilenas eran capaces de derrocar a Allende ... Médici contestó que pensaba que sí podían hacerlo... y dejó en claro que Brasil estaba trabajando en ese objetivo''.

Nixon señaló que "si los brasileños pensaban que había algo que nosotros pudiéramos hacer en esto, le gustaría que [Médici] se lo informara. Si hacía falta dinero u otro tipo de asistencia discreta, podríamos ayudar'', agrega el memorando.

"Esto debe implementarse en el mayor secreto. Pero debemos tratar de evitar nuevos Allende y nuevos Castro y, en lo posible, tratar de revertir estas tendencias'', expresó Nixon. Médici "dijo que le agradaba que las posiciones de Brasil y Estados Unidos... fueran tan similares''.

Peter Kornbluh, analista del Archivo de Seguridad Nacional, dijo que aunque algunos detalles del apoyo brasileño al golpe en Chile se conocían desde hace tiempo, el memorando de Kissinger es "un documento franco que revela connivencia y confabulación''. Agregó que no conocía ninguna prueba de la cooperación de Médici con los cubanos anticastristas, y el memorando de Kissinger no hace mención de ningún acuerdo concreto.

El memorando señala que Nixon y Médici también discutieron otros temas cubanos, como la readmisión de la isla a la Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA) y un posible cambio en la política estadounidense hacia La Habana después que Nixon restableció las relaciones con China.

Después de un intercambio de palabras amables al principio, Nixon "dijo que había un tema que quería dejar en claro que ... como resultado del cambio en nuestra política sobre China ... había algunos rumores ... de que va a haber un cambio en nuestra política sobre Cuba'', escribió Kissinger. "Esto era absolutamente incierto''.

Por su parte, Médici señaló que Perú estaba tratando de persuadir a la OEA para que readmitiera a Cuba en su seno y le preguntó a Nixon cómo debían cooperar para oponerse a esto. Nixon dijo que estudiaría el caso y le contestaría "en privado''. La OEA aprobó el levantamiento sanciones a Cuba en 1974.

Kornbluh dijo que como el memorando muestra que Nixon y Médici acordaron establecer un canal no oficial para contactos sobre temas delicados como Cuba y Chile, Brasil debe abrir sus archivos militares para que los historiadores puedan estudiar el tema

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"la gran estafa"



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Cuba y EU retoman diálogo migratorio
Negociaciones suspendidas desde el 2003


WASHINGTON - Estados Unidos y Cuba retoman este martes en Nueva York el diálogo sobre migración, suspendido desde 2003, después de que La Habana aceptara finalmente a finales de mayo la oferta de Washington, informaron fuentes del Departamento de Estado.

El representante de EU

Por parte del Gobierno de Estados Unidos participará en las conversaciones el subsecretario de Estado adjunto para América Latina, Craig Kelly, explicaron las fuentes, que, sin embargo, no precisaron quién representará a La Habana en el encuentro.

En abril pasado, el presidente de EU, Barack Obama, levantó las restricciones a los viajes de familiares y envíos de remesas a Cuba, lo que dio pie a una cierta apertura hacia la isla.

A raíz de ello, el Departamento de Estado, mediante el secretario de Estado adjunto para América Latina, Thomas Shannon, mantuvo reuniones con el titular de la Sección de Intereses de Cuba, Jorge Bolaños, en Washington.

Poco después, el 22 de mayo se supo que Estados Unidos había ofrecido a La Habana reanudar las conversaciones sobre asuntos migratorios.

Fuentes del Departamento de Estado dijeron entonces que el objetivo de este diálogo sería el de "revisar recientes tendencias en la migración ilegal cubana a EU y mejorar la relación operacional con Cuba en temas de migración".

Funcionarios de inmigración de ambos países se reunieron por última vez en 2003 y los contactos fueron suspendidos por orden del entonces presidente George W. Bush un año después.

El pasado 31 de mayo, Cuba aceptó reanudar las conversaciones sobre migración y el servicio postal entre los dos países, que no funciona desde hace décadas.

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"la gran estafa"


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For many Cuban immigrants, old habits die hard

By JACKIE BUENO SOUSAjsousa@MiamiHerald.com

Judging by the letters I received in response to my last column, Miamians are divided into two camps: those who believe Cubans have made Miami a world-class city, and those who believe Cubans have ruined this once-fine town.

The debate can get ugly. But I gotta admit I love the honest communication.

Last week's column, you might recall, was about the tendency to blame immigrants for crimes and all that's wrong with our city. In particular, it spoke of the ease with which Cubans are being blamed for the recent wave of Medicare fraud mainly because many of those arrested locally have been, well, Cuban.


But much of the correspondence I received wasn't just about the Medicare issue, but about a general perception that Miami's Cuban community espouses a culture that too easily accepts defrauding government and big business. We're talking Medicare fraud, mortgage fraud -- slyly selling new goods from the trunk of a car.

Unfortunately, there's good reason for that perception. And to summarily dismiss those who have such views by automatically labeling them bigots or xenophobes would be to ignore a strain of truth in their criticism.  <----Did you read that?


''Accepts'' is the key word here. While the overwhelming majority of Miami's Cuban community consists of honest, hard-working people, there's a certain passivity and acceptance in how we react to those who do engage in such fraudulent acts.

Perhaps it's the effects of 50 years of communism reaching over the Florida Straits. The first time I went to Cuba, we were visited by several distant relatives. As is typical, the discussions initially consisted of the usual small talk, catching up on the whereabouts of so-and-so. At one point, when someone asked one of the men in the room what his son was doing for a living, he answered casually, ``Oh, you know, living off el bisne [the business].''

In the states, that might seem like an innocent enough answer. But in Cuba ''el bisne'' usually means hustling stolen government goods. Soap, paint, shoes, light bulbs, gas, rice -- anything that can be pilfered by employees working at a government factory or store. Everyone knew what it meant, and no one was offended.


The need for such goods is so great that no one cares how they are obtained. What matters is feeding your family, being able to fulfill needs, to desperately feel some sense of progress, even if that progress comes in the banality of splashing a fresh coat of paint on your living-room walls. The act has so permeated Cuban society that stealing from the government no longer elicits shame, not even by a father speaking of his son.

It's not always possible to leave such an attitude behind; you don't wash it away with 90 miles of ocean water or wipe it away with a green card. As a result, the attitude finds its way here more often than it should.

Except that here, it's usually not about stealing rice to help feed your family or illegally hooking onto a satellite connection because it's the only way to know what's happening in the world.

No, here, there should be shame. Shame in the lies, shame in the deceit and, most of all, shame in killing the dream of a new way of life by not shedding the unsavory ways of an old one.

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Cae cifra de inmigrantes ilegales cubanos

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Hace un año los escampavías del Servicio Guardacostas de Estados Unidos que operan en las aguas entre Cuba y Florida se mantenían ocupados interceptando decenas de refugiados cubanos cada mes.

Los escampavías aún continúan patrullando el Estrecho de la Florida, pero ahora los tripulantes tienen más dificultades para encontrar cubanos.

La razón es que menos cubanos indocumentados están abandonando la isla hacia Estados Unidos, no sólo a través de la ruta tradicional del Estrecho de la Florida, sino también a través Canal de Yucatán, primer paso para el posterior cruce de la frontera hacia territorio norteamericano.

La evidencia del pronunciado descenso en la corriente de refugiados cubanos se encuentra en el número de éstos interceptados en el Estrecho de la Florida, así como en el número de los que arriban a las playas surfloridanas.

Durante el período de 12 meses entre el primero de octubre del 2007 y el 30 de septiembre del 2008 –el llamado año fiscal federal– casi 2,200 cubanos fueron interceptados en el Estrecho de la Florida y casi 3,000 llegaron a playas locales.

Pero con sólo dos semanas más en el año fiscal corriente, menos de 1,000 cubanos han sido interceptados en el estrecho y menos de 600 han arribado a playas de la zona.

Incluso el número de cubanos que llegan a puestos fronterizos, aún la ruta más popular, ha disminuido considerablemente en comparación con el año fiscal anterior: 5,621 contra 10,030.

Nadie parece saber a ciencia cierta por qué el número de refugiados cubanos ha bajado considerablemente.

Pero funcionarios federales, expertos en asuntos cubanos, así como cubanos llegados recientemente y algunos dirigentes comunitarios mencionaron posibles factores, desde la crisis económica en Estados Unidos; tácticas más agresivas por parte del Servicio Guardacostas; más encausamientos formales contra sospechosos de contrabando de inmigrantes; un endurecimiento de la política mexicana contra inmigrantes cubanos indocumentados a un relajamiento de la política norteamericana hacia Cuba.

Las nuevas políticas del presidente Barack Obama liberalizaron los viajes familiares a Cuba y las remesas de dinero de exiliados a familiares en la isla. Durante la administración del presidente George W. Bush, los exiliados podían viajar sólo una vez cada tres años sin poder enviar más de $300 cada tres meses.

Pero la mayoría de los expertos coincidió en que la recesión y acciones más agresivas contra el contrabando de inmigrantes por parte de las autoridades podrían ser los dos factores principales del descenso en el número de refugiados cubanos.

Ambos factores se combinaron para hacer más difícil que los exiliados pudieran pagar a los contrabandistas de inmigrantes por traer a sus seres queridos, según analistas.

“Los contrabandistas no contrabandean gratuitamente”, declaró Víctor Colón, asistente en jefe y agente de la Patrulla Fronteriza de Estados Unidos en el sector de Miami. “Contrabandean por paga”.

Según funcionarios a cargo de las investigaciones sobre el contrabando de inmigrantes, un viaje desde Cuba podría costar de $5,000 a $10,000 por persona.

Colón aseguró que otro factor podría ser también el incremento en el número de investigaciones y dossiers legales contra los contrabandistas.

La Patrulla Fronteriza, afirmó Colón, ha registrado una baja de un 70 por ciento en el número de “llegadas ilegales por vía marítima.”

Hasta meses recientes, las llegadas de inmigrantes cubanos desde Cayo Hueso hasta Palm Beach era cosa diaria.

Mientras que muchos cubanos llegaban en balsas u otros tipos de embar caciones rústicas, en tiempos recientes la mayoría era traída en botes rápidos mayormente usados por contrabandistas bien organizados.

Un lugar favorito de llegada ha sido el paso elevado sobre la Bahía de Biscayne, Rickenbacker Causeway, a cuyas marinas y playas han arribado tradicionalmente grupos de refugiados cubanos.

Funcionarios de los Guardacostas y la Oficina de Inmigración y Aduanas confirmaron que la corriente de inmigrantes cubanos ha bajado y citaron como uno de los posibles factores la decisión de atacar más resueltamente por la vía legal a los contrabandistas.

“Lo que parece es que nuestra decisión de llevar adelante estas investigaciones y encausamientos [. . .] han sido factores del declive”, declaró Kevin Crowley, agente especial a cargo en la Oficina de Investigaciones del Departamento de Inmigración y Aduanas de Estados Unidos (ICE, por su siglas en inglés).

Mientras tanto, en los Guardacostas, el capitán Peter Brown, jefe de operaciones de Respuesta del Séptimo Distrito, con sede en Miami, afirmó que se han establecido más encausamientos contra los contrabandistas en parte debido a un cambio en la ley, que permite a las autoridades acusar a sospechosos de ignorar órdenes de alto en altamar aun cuando no lleven inmigrantes a bordo.

Expertos en asuntos cubanos, líderes de la comunidad exiliada y cubanos recién llegados enumeraron otras posibles razones para el declive en el número de refugiados cubanos.

Rosa Martín Vergara, que llegó hace menos de un mes, dijo que menos inmigrantes cubanos indocumentados están saliendo debido a las tragedias en altamar y a la nueva política de México de deportar cubanos ilegales.

“Estos y otros factores han contribuido, a mi juicio, a que salga menos gente por mar”, afirmó Martín Vergara en una entrevista el viernes en la oficina del centro de Miami de los Servicios Legales Católicos, que la ayudan a relocalizarse en Estados Unidos.

Ramón Saúl Sánchez, presidente del Movimiento Democracia y un ferviente activista a favor de los refugiados cubanos, aseguró que era posible que la decisión de Obama de levantar todas las restricciones de viaje y remesas a Cuba en abril pudieron también haber jugado un papel importante en la caída del número de inmigrantes indocumentados procedentes de la isla.

“La nueva política de permitir más contacto familiar ayuda a reforzar los lazos familiares y hace que los familiares se extrañen menos ya que la gente puede viajar allá más frecuentemente”, señaló Sánchez, que se oponía a las restricciones impuestas por Bush.

Mientras el descenso en la corriente de inmigrantes cubanos ha sido más pronunciado en los últimos 12 meses, la cifra en realidad comenzó a disminuir en el año fiscal 2008.

Esa fue la primera vez que el número total de cubanos que abandonan la isla por el Estrecho de la Florida y el Canal de Yucatán hacia México bajó después de haberse incrementado constantemente desde el 2001.

Mientras que más de 18,000 cubanos salieron de la isla hacia Estados Unidos por el Estrecho de la Florida y México en el año fiscal 2007, sólo un poco más de 15,000 salieron por las mismas rutas en el 2008.

Los contrabandistas de inmigrantes empezaron a cambiar las rutas del Estrecho de la Florida al Canal de Yucatán hace unos cuatro o cinco años luego que la Agencia de Seguridad Nacional comenzó a estrechar la vigilancia en el estrecho y las playas surfloridanas.

Para el 2005, el número de refugiados cubanos que llegaban a la frontera con México buscando entrar a Estados Unidos amparados en la Ley de Ajuste Cubano excedía el número de inmigrantes cubanos que trataban de llegar al sur de la Florida por mar.

México entonces se convirtió en la ruta preferida de los cubanos indocumentados que buscaban reunirse con sus familiares en Estados Unidos, principalmente en el sur de la Florida.

Según la Ley de Ajuste Cubano, los nacionales de la isla que llegan a suelo estadounidense pueden quedarse aunque no tengan visa.

Y según la política de pie mojado/pie seco implantada durante la administración del presidente Bill Clinton, sólo los cubanos interceptados en altamar son repatriados. Los que tocan suelo norteamericano pueden quedarse.

Randolph McGrorty, director ejecutivo de los Servicios Legales de la Arquidiócesis de Miami, estima que la baja en inmigrantes se debe también a un cambio en la política mexicana el otoño pasado. McGrorty, cuya oficina ayuda a la relocalización de inmigrantes, indicó que desde entonces los arribos de refugiados cubanos habían disminuido.

En octubre, México y Cuba llegaron a un acuerdo bajo el cual los mexicanos repatriarían a inmigrantes cubanos indocumentados. Hasta ese entonces, los inmigrantes cubanos descubiertos en México eran multados y luego podían obtener una visa temporal de tránsito que les permitía llegar a la frontera con Estados Unidos.

Lo que nadie sabe es si la disminución en los arribos de refugiados cubanos será permanente.

Al menos dos académicos especialistas en asuntos cubanos dijeron que no tienen confianza en que las cifras ilustren la realidad.

“Yo no veo que las cifras nos revelen en definitiva lo que en realidad está pasando”, afirmó Phil Peters, vicepresidente del Lexington Institute que estudia los asuntos cubanos. “Para mí hay subidas y bajadas, fluctuaciones en el flujo de inmigrantes cubanos”.

Disminuciones similares en la corriente de refugiados cubanos habían ocurrido antes, pero habitualmente después de migraciones masivas como el puente marítimo del Mariel en 1980 y la crisis de los balseros en 1994.

Para Jaime Suchlicki, director del Instituto de Estudios Cubanos y Cubano Americanos de la Universidad de Miami, el descenso podría significar algo diferente que no ha sido del todo bien entendido.

‘La represión podría haber aumentado en Cuba”, declaró Suchlicki, citando posibles razones para el declive. “Quizá algunos cubanos tienen la esperanza de que podría haber reformas bajo Raúl Castro. La gente sigue saliendo, pero no sabemos con exactitud cuántos están saliendo. Otros gobiernos quizá les estén dando visas. Hay cosas que aún no sabemos”.