How desperate are Cubans to get away from their homeland? They are willing to take a bullet—though sometimes it's not clear where the gunshots came from.
The Miami Herald reports that 26 migrants seeking refugee status in the U.S. were picked up Monday about 50 miles off of Key West. Seven of them were found with gunshot wounds—none of which were life threatening. Three had wounds near the same place in the space between their ribs and hips. Another was found shot in the foot.
The six denied rumors the wounds were self-inflicted. Instead, the Herald reported, they claim there was a melee at their boat launching site an hour east of Havana.
“I know that in American waters there are several boats that can assist you and at that moment I could not go back not knowing who were the people shooting at us and what could happen,” Yarelys Ríos, 37, told the Herald. “That [to intentionally shoot yourself] would have been something very hard. I am pregnant and I’m not going to risk my baby to come to a country that, yes, where I want to be, but not that way.”
When the U.S. Coast Guard finds injured or sick rafters, the Herald said, they are brought to American shores for medical attention, which allows them to apply for permanent residency.
Emigration attempts have spiked in the past 12 months with the announcement that Cuba and the U.S. are normalizing relations. That has stoked fears the U.S. will end its "wet-foot dry-foot" policy of allowing Cubans who make it to U.S. shores to apply for U.S. residence.
The surge has been mostly over land, as my Fusion colleagues have reported in recent months. That route is now viewed as less treacherous, and has also been enabled by the advent of smartphone technology.
But the U.S. has still recorded a 39% increase in sea migration attempts since the last fiscal year, according to the L.A. Times.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.