MIAMI — Emergency plans drawn up in Washington and Miami for dealing with the turmoil expected when Fidel Castro dies have been redrawn following the recent fainting spell suffered by Cuba’s 74-year-old communist dictator.
The U.S. Coast Guard is given a leading role in the contingency planning. It has plans to call in cutters from along the Atlantic coast to patrol the Florida Straits and prevent boats going in either direction.
It is assumed that the 90-mile stretch of water will witness a colossal traffic jam in the chaos after Mr Castro’s death as thousands of Cubans try to reach Florida in rafts and small boats, and Cuban-Americans from Miami venture the other way to try to collect relatives.
The emergency plans reveal that Florida’s politicians have extracted in advance a pledge from the federal and state governments that any emergency housing built to accommodate post-Castro refugees would be constructed outside Florida.
The planning includes a detailed outline of how street celebrations might be tamed by organizing rallies in Miami’s Orange Bowl stadium.
Cuban exiles would be given a chance to sing and dance to Cuban bands and “blow off steam safely.”
The planning also covers some off-beat developments that only a far-seeing bureaucrat could conceive.
U.S. Customs, for example, expects that entrepreneurs will fill ferries in Havana with hundreds of vintage American cars from the 1950s and try to market them in the United States. Ancient Cadillacs, De Sotos and Chevrolets wheezing along the road is part of the charm of Havana.
Despite Florida’s freedom of information laws, full details of the contingency plans remain secret because they contain “sensitive information about public safety.” Many of the salient elements, however, have leaked out in recent days.
The initial “post-Castro” plan of action was drawn up after the collapse of communism in Europe and Mr. Castro’s sudden loss of his financial, military and diplomatic backer, the Soviet Union.
In Miami, Washington and in Tallahassee, the Florida state capital, these emergency plans are being updated after Mr. Castro lost consciousness during one of his marathon speeches on a hot afternoon last month.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, who has attended intelligence briefings on the matter and has had a hand in drafting Washington’s emergency plans, said last week that a U.S. naval blockade of Cuba was a possibility.