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US sees surge in Cuban rafters aiming for Florida

By Christine Armario

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Aug. 15 2014 11:43 a.m. MDT

FILE in this Aug. 27, 1994 file photo, U.S. Coast Guard crew from the cutter Staten Island are hindered by rough seas in the Florida Straits as they attempt to rescue Cuban refugees. In the 20 years since Fidel Castro set off a high-seas humanitarian crisis by encouraging an exodus of 35,000 islanders, more than 26,000 other Cubans have risked their lives crossing the Florida Straits. Already this year, nearly 3,000 have been picked up by U.S. authorities, on a pace to double last year’s total. Experts say it shows the limits of the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy that solved the 1994 crisis.

Roberto Schmidt, File, Associated Press

MIAMI — Coast Guard officials and social workers are seeing many more Cubans risk their lives on homemade rafts to reach the U.S. this year.

Nearly 3,000 have been picked up at sea or on shore, on track to double last year's total.

The surge comes 20 years after Fidel Castro launched a humanitarian crisis on the high seas, encouraging more than 35,000 Cubans to flee.

President Bill Clinton helped resolve that crisis by announcing a "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy: Anyone caught at sea will be brought back to the island, but almost all Cubans who reach U.S. soil can stay.

Coast Guard records show that another 26,000 Cubans have tried the 90-mile journey since then.

Scholars say at least one of every four rafters doesn't survive.

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