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Cubans keep coming to Venezuela

By Giuliana Chiappe, El Universal

In just one month, Cuban planes have landed 73 times in Maiquetía Airport. Congressman Pedro Castillo (MAS opposition party) requested an investigation after officials and airport staff made a series of claims about an alleged massive entry of Cubans. The arrival of planes packed with Cubans -and not metaphorically- has been systematic. Between September 26 and October 27, on all but two days contingents of pro-Castro Cubans have passed through the privileged entrance ramp No. 4 of Caracas' International Maiquetía Airport.

On September 29, the day with the highest activity, six planes arrived with a total of 950 Cubans. All of them were sent to the state of Mérida. In contrast, on October 8 and October 16 there was no flight from Havana.

All these planes, from Cubana de Aviación (bringing only passengers, not cargo), Aerocaribe and Aerogaviota, landed on Ramp No. 4, which, since it is designated for military use, is exempted from the usual custom controls.

The show is quite unusual, according to Venezuelan officials from Maiquetía Airport. Cubans travel without caring about their belongings, which are loaded directly from the planes to the trucks of the mayor's offices receiving the contingents of Castro government officials. The load is guarded by National Guard officers.

The list of passengers is always handwritten by the same person. Sometimes they do not even use the official form for general declaration of exits and entries, but just a plain bond sheet of paper. The security force of Maiquetía Airport knows when these planes land. The use of TV cameras as well as the presence of journalists from any mass media is prohibited. Nevertheless, a few photojournalists have managed to catch images from landings, defeating security controls.

Most of the entering Cubans are in their 30's and 40's, all claim to be physicians and all report the same destination address: the Embassy of Cuba. However, none of them visits it. They are sent directly to their assigned states and municipalities.

Of the 11,530 Cubans who have entered the country to date, 27 per cent (3,120), who arrived on 22 separate flights, are currently in Caracas, specifically at the Libertador Municipality. Another 1,560 Cubans were sent to Maracaibo, capital of the western state of Zulia, and 810 more were placed in other municipalities of that state. 1,010 Cubans are currently residing in the central state of Miranda. In Anzoátegui and Mérida there are, respectively, 985 and 950 Cubans. The states of Aragua and Apure have received, respectively, 810 and 315 Cubans thus far.

Translated by Teresa León

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