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   Tom Paine, 1776

   Paul Jacob

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Sailing to Freedom in a Buick
U.S. Term Limits Daily Radio Commentary #1057
Release Date: March 2, 2004
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The idea was simple: take a 1959 Buick, replace the wheels with a propeller, seal it up, fill the fenders with foam, add a steel bow then launch it from Cuba, navigating the sea to Florida.

To freedom.

Luis Grass Rodriguez, the main engineer and pilot, took along his wife, four-year-old son, and two other families in that green Buick. And he would have succeeded, too, if it weren't for the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard stopped them ten miles off of Marathon, Florida. In early reports, the Coast Guard gave the excuse that the vehicle wasn't seaworthy. But when they tried to sink it, they had to ask the makeshift boat's designers for help; it was extremely hard to scuttle.

The U.S. usually allows Cubans fleeing their country to stay but only if they make it to U.S. soil. So the Coast Guard patrols the waters, making sure few reach land. This collaboration with totalitarian Cuba puzzles many Americans. And even the staunchest anti-immigrant Americans were a bit shocked at how quickly eight of the eleven autonauts were returned to Cuba.

It's sad: the only reason Luis Grass and his family were sent to Guantanamo rather than Cuba proper was because the last time he tried this he started a legal process of gaining a legit emigre status.

The American government was not effectively moved by the genius and perseverance of these Cubans. Only paperwork impresses it.

Well, I'm more impressed by ingenuity and courage. Aren't you?

This is Common Sense. I'm Paul Jacob.

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