Florida Mayor Wants to Sail from Cuba on a DIY Raft to Highlight Plight of Cuban Immigrants

Lead Photo: Beacon Photo/Anthony DeFeo
Beacon Photo/Anthony DeFeo
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In this week’s Florida Man news, Clint Johnson – mayor of DeBary, Florida – has announced he will return home from a visit to Cuba in a makeshift raft, in order to “understand what the people have gone through when they came here on a raft.”

Johnson, who became the youngest Volusia County mayor in 2014, will bring some materials for his motorless raft on the trip, but he’ll finish building it with what he finds on the Caribbean island.

The Coast Guard has tried to dissuade him from this stunt, The Associated Press reports, but Johnson won’t back down. He will, however, follow their advice and carry an emergency beacon capable of tracking his location. “I don’t want to get too far away from the purpose of doing this,” he said, which according to him is to connect with the plight of Cubans who flee to the U.S. 

Except he’ll never truly understand. As the mayor of DeBary, he’s earning considerably more than the average Cuban. That alone allows him to buy more water and food to sustain him on his trip. Plus, he has no real reason to get on a raft to Florida (you know, cause he’s not escaping anything). But his stunt could unnecessarily drain resources – not to mention risk lives – of air and sea crews either way. And then there’s the fact that he’s accepting brand sponsorship of this 90-mile trip. Havana Sun, Delorme inReach Explorer, and American Auto Salvage & Recycling have already come on board as sponsors.

“Florida is in the mix with a ‘wet foot/dry foot’ policy which allows any Cuban immigrants that arrive on land by boat to receive refugee resident status,” he wrote on his site, Team Clint. “The journey they take is largely unreported and there is very little information on exactly what these men, women, & children go through to get here.” Fair point, but if he wants to shed light on the issue he could just head to Miami and ask a Cuban.

There has been a spike in the number of Cubans embarking on this dangerous journey following the United States and Cuba’s announcement they would reestablish relations in December 2014. Though the wet-foot, dry-foot policy remains in play, Cubans worry this protection, which allows them asylum as soon as they hit U.S. soil, will eventually end.