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Cablegate: Likelihood of a Cuban Mass Migration Following

VZCZCXYZ0012
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUB #0781/01 2702018
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 262018Z SEP 08
FM USINT HAVANA
TO RUCOWCV/CCGDSEVEN MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3761
RUCOWCX/CCGDEIGHT NEW ORLEANS LA PRIORITY
INFO RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 0547
RUEHBH/AMEMBASSY NASSAU 0034
RUEHPU/AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE 0009
RUEHDG/AMEMBASSY SANTO DOMINGO 0027
RUCOWCV/MARINCEN MIAMI FL
RHMFISS/HQ USSOCOM CMD CTR MACDILL AFB FL
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/NAVINTELOFC GUANTANAMO BAY CU
RUESDM/JTLO MIAMI FL
RHMFISS/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC
RUCOWCA/COMLANTAREA COGARD PORTSMOUTH VA 0125
RUCOWCV/COMCOGARD SECTOR KEY WEST FL
RHMFISS/COGARD INTELCOORDCEN WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

C O N F I D E N T I A L HAVANA 000781

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/26/2018
TAGS: SNAR PGOV PREL SMIG PHUM CU
SUBJECT: LIKELIHOOD OF A CUBAN MASS MIGRATION FOLLOWING
HURRICANE DESTRUCTION

Classified By: COM JONATHAN D. FARRAR, REASONS 1.4 B & D

1. (C) Summary: Hurricane season 2008 has been especially
unkind to the island of Cuba. Four consecutive storms,
concluding with the most recent, Hurricane IKE, left much of
the island in shambles. Buildings and homes, tobacco and
sugar crops, and island-wide infrastructure have all been
affected, including 444,000 damaged houses, and 63,000 houses
destroyed. The level of destruction has led many Cuba
watchers to ask whether a Cuban mass migration is likely in
the near future. While the aforementioned events have indeed
been historic in proportion, from our vantage point we see no
indication that a mass migration from Cuba is pending.
However, U.S. Interests Section (USINT) believes this is an
issue that must be given due deference as the outcome of
post-hurricane recovery efforts will play a large role in
determining whether Cubans take to the sea or remain on the
island. End Summary.

2. (C) During post-hurricane interactions with a variety of
sources in Cuba, USINT personnel have not detected any
indication a mass migration from Cuba is pending. Further,
Cubans who have regular contact with USINT (mainly
dissidents, refugees, and religious groups), including those
from Pinar del Rio, one of the worst hit and affected Cuban
provinces, have not reported the existence of rumors or
preparations by Cubans to depart the island in increased
numbers or larger go-fast or rustica loads.

3. (C) In conversation with Cuban Ministry of Interior
(MININT) personnel, specifically the Cuban Border Guard
(CBG), the USINT Coast Guard Drug Interdiction Specialist
(DIS) learned that some CBG coastal outpost units in Ciego de
Avila, Camaguey, and Las Tunas provinces were damaged during
the wave of hurricanes, and that CBG troops are busy making
repairs to infrastructure there. However, as expected, a CBG
Colonel informed the DIS that CBG patrols have not been
scaled back. It should be noted that during a separate
meeting with MININT/CBG personnel immediately following the
passing of IKE, the same Colonel asked the DIS whether the US
Coast Guard was planning "an operation" following that most
recent hurricane; DIS believes the Colonel's question, in the
context of the meeting and conversation, was an attempt to
gauge whether the US government was concerned about an
increase in Cuban migrant departures or mass migration, and
inadvertently suggested himself that there was a fear on the
part of the CBG that at least an increase in Cuban migration
numbers was possible.

4. (C) Cubans we speak with are increasingly frustrated with
the difficulties caused by the hurricanes and the GOC's
refusal to accept some foreign assistance offers. However,
the Cuban people possess a rather high boiling point: Cubans
have adopted a wait-and-see posture, also doing the best they
can in the interim to reinstall some sense of Cuban-style
"normalcy." Via Cuban state broadcast television and radio,
the GOC has urged Cubans to fight, be disciplined, and
exhibit solidarity following each hurricane's destructive
path, and encouraged Cubans to work harder to overcome
current conditions.

5. (C) While there have been no suggestions of a mass
migration event from Cuba, the ingredients necessary for the
Cuban people and/or government to cook-up such a scenario
have manifested in Cuba over the past two months- they
include: multiple natural disasters, damaged or destroyed
infrastructure, an apparent shortage of food on the island,
significantly increased fuel prices, and a Cuban government
whose post-hurricane response and recovery "expertise" are in
demand and are apparently spread dangerously thin from the
Province of Pinar del Rio in the west to Guantanamo Province
in the east, and in every province in between. Further, as
the rise and fall of Cuban migrant flow relies heavily on
weather conditions and sea state, the chances for an
increased egress of Cuban migrants prior to the winter cold
fronts and subsequent heavy seas would be more likely. Many
Cubans may attempt to depart the island hoping to beat the
heavy seas or reunite with family in south Florida prior to
the holiday season; this hurricane season may exacerbate that
trend.

6. (C) Comment: While the international community has its
eyes fixed on Cuba's pending response to the offers of
financial and resource assistance from the US government to
the GOC, it is possible that Cuban authorities will attempt
to mitigate the departure of Cuban migrants from the island
towards the United States to avoid negative press and
embarrassment. However, as international interest wanes,
Cuban authorities may also lose interest in curtailing the
flow of Cubans towards the United States. End Comment.
FARRAR

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