Even as President Obama touts the “normalization” of relations with Cuba as one of his top achievements of 2015,

Cuban citizens who hoped to see a change for the better in their lives are not only disappointed, but are fleeing to America in record numbers.

One year after the leaders of both countries announced the plan to restore diplomatic relations, Cubans remain under the iron-fisted control of the Castro family, just as it has since 1959.

Any criticism of the iron-fisted regime is punished with incarceration and any hope of increased participation in the political system is thwarted.

 Human rights campaigners claim that nearly 2,000 people were detained in December alone.

Alicia Garcia, who fled Cuba by boat in 1994, founded the Exodus 94 Foundation to assist newly-arrived Cubans with documentation, food, shelter and employment in the United States, says the organization has seen as many as 200 exiles a week in need of help.

“It’s a flood of people,” she said, comparing it to the mass exodus from the island in 1994. “Thirty thousand came in with me, but this is far bigger. All types of people are coming – men, women, children. They are fed up of the repression and economic problems at home, and scared that soon they won’t be welcomed by the U.S.”

Obama and Cuban president, Raul Castro, shook hands at the Johannesburg memorial for Nelson Mandela in 2013, and on December 17, 2014 announced to their respective nations the intent that the U.S. and Cuba would normalize relations beginning with the re-establishment of embassies  in Havana and Washington, closed by the Kennedy administration in 1961.

Raul took over the government from his older brother, Fidel, the mastermind of the Cuban Revolution over sixty years ago, in 2008.

But despite the announcement, many Cubans have given up on seeing any positive changes in the repressive regime.

One woman who recently fled the island said, “You asked me what has changed in the past year for us,” she said. “Well I can tell you, for us, Cubans our lives have not changed. Actually, it’s getting worse. I had to get out. I couldn’t stand it any more. We’ve all gone completely crazy to leave.”

Said another, “Nobody believes that this change will make their lives better. They’ve been lied to by the Castros too many times before.”


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