Washington : The US government is prepared for a possible mass exodus of Cubans after the death of elderly leader Fidel Castro, US-Cuba transition coordinator Caleb McCarry said.
“We have contingency plans for a possible massive exodus,” McCarry said in Washington. “We have the obligation to secure our borders.”
McCarry is one of the most controversial political figures in US-Cuban relations. The communist island interpreted the creation of his bureau by US President George W. Bush as a clear statement of purpose to annex Cuba in the near future.
The US official admitted that “something changed” in Cuba since Fidel Castro, 81, temporarily gave up power to his brother Raul on July 31, 2006.
“For the first time in decades there is uncertainty,” McCarry noted.
For example, he mentioned the “significant” decrease in attempts to reach Florida since shortly after the power transfer. Based on explanations given by Cubans who were intercepted by the US Coast Guard, McCarry interpreted that “people stayed because they wanted to see what would happen.”
He encouraged Raul Castro to liberalize the country.
“Freeing political prisoners would be a very important step towards political reconciliation,” McCarry noted.
The US, through an agreement with Cuba, has an annual quota of 20,000 visas for Cubans, but has consistently issued more than the quota, giving a total of 273,598 since the programme started in 1994, said McCarry.