Under a hazy yellow moon, dozens of Cubans pushed off on the flat sea early Sunday on flimsy boats bound for the United States.
"I want liberty: economic, political, everything," said Lazaro, a 27-year-old unskilled laborer who, like many trying to flee, refused to give his surname. "My sister and cousin and two others left after midnight."Despite restrictions newly imposed on Cuban refugees by the United States, many Cubans were still ready to brave the 90-mile crossing to Florida on a few wooden planks, lashed by telephone cords to inflated inner tubes.
A middle-aged woman in a wheelchair at Altamar beach said she counted 50 rafts that left after dark Saturday as she watched, disappointed, from shore.
Angel, a 31-year-old automobile mechanic, sat on Cojimar beach, six miles outside Havana. He was admiring would-be refugees building a raft with screws, a rough pole for a mast and a sail hacked by machete from a large piece of used canvas.
"That's a real boat compared to mine," he said.
On the sand nearby were provisions for the voyage: plastic jugs with water and lemon juice, a leg of ham, and a Black Madonna, the Virgin who in Cuban tradition protects people going out to sea.
Some said they hadn't heard about the new U.S. restrictions. Others said they didn't care.
"What do I risk by staying here?" said Pedro, 31.
Pedro and five others had set out earlier, but they turned back several hours later when an inner tube supporting their raft punctured. They were attempting to buy another inner tube in Havana.
Cubans who didn't hear about Clinton's measures on short wave radio Saturday read about them Sunday in the state newspaper, Rebel Youth.
The paper denounced the measures as an attempt to undermine Cuba's sovereignty.