Mexico new chosen route for cuban smugglers
The speedboats are registered in Florida and are the bounty of a war, that some feel is hardly being fought, against the illegal trafficking of Cubans, a business that is clouding the turquoise blue waters of Mexicos Yucatan peninsula.
Powered with several 275 horsepower outboard motors, they are capable of transporting up to 40 illegal Cuban immigrants and take them to the Mexican beach resort of Isla Mujeres. From there they continue on their journey to the United States.
United States officials, quoted by Reuters news service, are calculating that 89 percent of the Cuban immigrants enter the US today by way of the Mexico-US border, instead of traveling via the dangerous Miami route, crossing the 145 kilometers of the Florida Straits.
The fare charged by the smugglers ranges between US $8,000 and $10,000, a highly lucrative business. They say in Mexico that the illegal business is managed by Cuban-Americans and is flourishing under the very noses of the Mexican authorities.
"The Miami Cubans come with money and buy boats, fuel, rent homes, tour around town using satellite phones and the authorities do nothing," says Mexican businessman Alvaro Burgos. Burgos is the owner of a fishing cooperative in Isla Mujeres, a small island barely seven kilometers long located facing Cancun.
"Here even hurricane shelters have been used as safe houses to bring and take Cubans, something we have all seen. The authorities do nothing," he said. Mexicos Attorney Generals office wasnt available to comment on the situation, Reuters underscored in its report.
The traffic of illegal Cuban immigrants is also leaving a trace of blood in Cancun, the scene of violent acts of revenge between rival gangs.
Early this month the body of a Cuban-American, supposedly involved in the smuggling operations appeared riddled with bullets. Several days later, the police found the bodies of his girlfriend and of two other Mexican nationals deep inside the bottom of a well near Cancun.
Quintana Roo State Prosecutor Bello Rodriguez recently told journalists: "The path of Cuban immigrants through the Yucatan Peninsula has already become a national security situation." Isla Mujeres is part of Quintana Roo.
The smugglers have set up their operational base in the tourist circuit comprising Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Merida. According to local sources, they move around 100 people a week and can make up to a million dollars per month.
The very profitable business is based on the existence of the so called Cuba Adjustment Act, an inhumane law that Washington uses to try and destabilize the situation in Cuba. The law gives Cubans near automatic residence if they make it alive to US territory, no matter how they came.
The National Institute of Immigration quotes the number of undocumented Cubans detained in Mexico as multiplying from 254 in 2002 to 2205 last year. During the first semester of 2007, 876 illegal Cuban immigrants have been intercepted and 271 sent back to Cuba. Mexican sources note that the great majority are set free after a 90 day detention period.
The problem may be even worse than what the statistics show. A diplomat in Havana suspects that the smugglers are associating themselves with organized crime of Yucatan to also exploit prostitution and drug trafficking networks.
Once in Isla Mujeres, the Cubans cross by ferry to Cancun, often disguised as tourists. Then they travel onwards to the United States border.
Quite differently from other Latin American migrants, once at the US border, they just present themselves to the authorities and the matters over. Thats exactly what happened with terrorist Luis Posada Carriles who passed through Isla Mujeres on his illegal entry to the United States, using the illegal network created from Miami.