Cuba confirms 2 men fled to Florida Keys on motorized hang glider

Havana, Mar 26 (EFE).- Two Cuban pilots on the weekend escaped the communist island, flying to the Florida Keys on a motorized hang glider that had been used to provide tourism services on the beaches near Havana, state-run Cuban media reported on Sunday.

According to a statement released by the state-run Cuban Aviation Club and reported by the media outlets, the pilots landed on Saturday at Key West Airport on board the Trike ultralight hang glider.

The club denounced the flight as a “frank violation of Cuban air space” and “theft” of the equipment, calling the two pilots “deserters.”

In addition, it transmitted “to the appropriate international authorities its disagreement with acts like these,” asked for “punishment appropriate to the seriousness of the case” to be levied against the pilots and for “the stolen equipment” to be returned.

The pair set out at 8:05 am on Saturday morning from the Havana coast, specifically the residential Tarara district, the Cuban statement said.

The two pilots were detained and placed in the custody of the US Border patrol immediately upon landing in Florida after a flight lasting less than two hours and now they are facing deportation, according to US media reports.

The most recent air escape from Cuba recalls the October 2022 incident where a Cuban pilot flew a Russian-made single-engine Antonov An-2 biplane from central Sancti Spiritus province to the Dade-Collier Training and Transition Airport in South Florida, was taken into US custody and later granted asylum by a judge.

During Fiscal Year 2022 – from Oct. 1, 2021 through Sept. 30, 2022 – 6,182 Cuban migrants were intercepted in the waters of the Florida Strait, a substantial increase over the 838 Cuban migrants detained in that zone during the previous fiscal year.

In addition, another 224,607 migrants from the communist island arrived during the same period on the US border with Mexico, according to figures compiled by US Customs and Border Protection.

Since the current fiscal year began last October, 5,862 illegal Cuban migrants have been intercepted by the US Coast Guard.

Since January of this year, Washington has had a humanitarian program in place that allows beneficiaries to enter and work in the US for two years if they have a sponsor who assumes economic responsibility for them. Up to 30,000 people from Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba and Nicaragua are allowed to benefit from this program each month.

More than 10,000 Cubans have taken advantage of this program so far in 2023, according to the US Embassy in Cuba.

Simultaneously, Washington is expelling to Mexico undocumented migrants from those countries who try to cross the southern US border illegally.

Mexico, meanwhile, has agreed to admit 30,000 migrants per month after they are expelled from US territory.

EFE –/bp

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