Rain squalls, wind gusts and choppy seas kept Cubans on rickety homemade rafts close to shore Friday. But the respite in the flow of refugees trying to paddle to Florida looked to be brief.
Esteban Moreno said he and three friends turned back after setting out Thursday evening."We came back because of bad weather," said Moreno, 28. "But as soon as conditions improve we'll leave again."
After days of bright sunshine and calm seas, gray clouds rolled in Thursday with heavy rains, lightning and thunder. Winds whipped the Caribbean into whitecapped waves.
Moreno had company. On Cojimar beach outside Havana, Coral Benitez, 20, recounted reluctantly turning back.
"We don't want to keep living here," she said of her husband and 5-year-old son. "We earn nothing and that's not going to change."
Meanwhile, the Pentagon says it will cost roughly $20 million a month to run an expanded Cuban refugee camp at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, and it may have to call up reserve forces if the Caribbean island exodus continues.
The U.S. military on Thursday scrambled to transport the huge amounts of equipment and supplies needed to expand the detention camps at Guantanamo Bay from the current 20,000-person capacity to between 40,000 and 60,000.
Some 7,000 to 9,000 extra U.S. soldiers are expected to be sent to Guantanamo to help the 3,000 soldiers already there, officials said.
The refugee surge began earlier this month when President Fidel Castro stopped arresting those leaving Cuba illegally.