Cuba allows import of outboard motors, boosts fishermen By Reuters

© . A fisherman works in his boat in Havana, Cuba, March 29, 2022. Photo taken March 29, 2022. REUTERS/Stringer By Dave Sherwood COJIMAR, Cuba () – Since the days of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” , whose protagonist toiled with oars to catch a marlin, few Cubans have enjoyed the luxury of a motorboat to chase the plethora of fish that lie just offshore from their island home. That seems to be changing. For the first time in decades, the island’s communist government has given Cubans the power to import outboard motors under 10 horsepower for use on small boats and has said it will cut red tape to speed up the process. One fisherman already thinking about an upgrade is Maydel Reinaldo Hechevarría, a 41-year-old street vendor from the port of Jaimaitas, west of Havana. He said he’d been fishing since he was a boy, but that he had few options due to the lack of a motor. “When we row, there are a lot of days when we can’t go outside,” said Hechevarría, who told he started importing a motor just days after the announcement last week. “I see more possibilities now.” Restrictions on boat building and importation have long limited private commercial and recreational fishermen like Hechevarría to vessels that predate Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, much the same as the island’s candy-colored vintage American cars. But those limits, presumably designed to mitigate attempts at the dangerous crossing north to the United States by sea, also hamper fishermen’s ability to catch fish to feed the island’s 11 million residents. Even before Castro’s Revolution, most Cubans, like Hemingway’s Santiago, in “The Old Man and the Sea,” were too poor to afford a motorbike. Little has changed since then. “This is a solution for some, but it won’t solve the needs of all fishermen,” said Fernando de la Rosa, 58, who oversees the fishing port of Jaimanitas, a ragtag collection of boats tucked into a palm-and-mangrove-lined area. creek. Larger commercial fishermen around Havana told the measure was a step in the right direction, but still fell short of what is needed to modernize the fleet and increase catches. Cojimar fisherman Abilio Alcantara, 53, captains a decades-old Japanese-built 27-foot boat that requires far more power than the government-approved 10-hp motor, he told . “The measure is a good one,” he said. “But we need engines of at least 80 or 90 horsepower.” Alcantara said concerns that outboard motors would be used by fishermen to migrate north to the United States had been exaggerated. “I’ve been on my boat for 30 years,” Alcantara said. “If I’m not gone by now, I’m not going anywhere.” Since October, the U.S. Coast Guard has picked up more than 1,000 Cubans bound for South Florida in rafts, homemade boats and even surfboards — the largest number since fiscal year 2017, agency data shows. A harrowing economic crisis has led to food and medicine shortages and has prompted many Cubans to immigrate from the poor Caribbean island.

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