On This Day, April 20, 1980 – Mass Exodus of Cubans Flee to US as Mariel Boatlift Begins
1980 – The Castro regime announces that all Cubans wishing to emigrate to the U.S. are free to board boats at the port of Mariel west of Havana, launching the Mariel Boatlift. The first of 125,000 Cuban refugees from Mariel reached Florida the next day.
The boatlift was precipitated by housing and job shortages caused by the ailing Cuban economy, leading to simmering internal tensions on the island. On April 1, Hector Sanyustiz and four others drove a bus through a fence at the Peruvian embassy and were granted political asylum. Cuban guards on the street opened fire. One guard was killed in the crossfire.
The Cuban government demanded the five be returned for trial in the dead guard’s death. But when the Peruvian government refused, Castro withdrew his guards from the embassy on Good Friday, April 4. By Easter Sunday, April 6, some 10,000 Cubans crowded into the lushly landscaped gardens at the embassy requesting asylum. Other embassies, including those of Spain and Costa Rica, agreed to take a small number of people. But suddenly, two weeks later, Castro proclaimed that the port of Mariel would be opened to anyone wishing to leave, as long as they had someone to pick them up. Cuban exiles in the United States rushed to hire boats in Miami and Key West and rescue their relatives.
In all, 125,000 Cubans fled to U.S. shores in about 1,700 boats, creating large waves of people that overwhelmed the U.S. Coast guard. Cuban guards had packed boat after boat, without considering safety, making some of the overcrowded boats barely seaworthy. Twenty-seven migrants died, including 14 on an overloaded boat that capsized on May 17.
The boatlift also began to have negative political implications for U.S.President Jimmy Carter.When it was discovered that a number of the exiles had been released from Cuban jails and mental health facilities, many were placed in refugee camps while others were held in federal prisons to undergo deportation hearings. Of the 125,000 “Marielitos,” as the refugees came to be known, who landed in Florida, more than 1,700 were jailed and another 587 were detained until they could find sponsors.
The exodus was finally ended by mutual agreement between the U.S. andCubangovernments in October 1980.
1139 – The Second Lateran Council opened in Rome.
1534 – Jacques Cartier, a French explorer, set sail from St. Malo to explore the North American coastline.
1653 – In England, Oliver Cromwell expelled the Long Parliament for trying to pass the Perpetuation Bill that would have kept Parliament in the hands of only a few members.
1657 – English Admiral Robert Blake fought his last battle when he destroyed the Spanish fleet in Santa Cruz Bay.
1689 – The siege of Londonderry began. Supporters of James II attacked the city.
1769 – Ottawa Chief Pontiac was murdered by an Illinois Indian in Cahokia.
1775 – American troops began the siege of British-held Boston.
1792 – France declared war on Austria, Prussia, and Sardinia. It was the start of the French Revolutionary wars.
1809 – Napoleon defeated Austria at Battle of Abensberg, Bavaria.
1832 – Hot Springs National Park was established by an act of the U.S. Congress. It was the first national park in the U.S.
1836 – The U.S. territory of Wisconsin was created by the U.S. Congress.
1841 – In Philadelphia, PA, Edgar Allen Poe’s first detective story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” was published in Graham’s Magazine.
1861 – Robert E. Lee resigned from U.S. Army.
1865 – Safety matches were first advertised.
1902 – Scientists Marie and Pierre Curie isolated the radioactive element radium.
1912 – Fenway Park opened as the home of the Boston Red Sox.
1916 – Chicago’s Wrigley Field held its first Cubs game with the first National League game at the ballpark. The Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 7-6 in 11 innings.
1940 – The First electron microscope was demonstrated by RCA.
1945 – Soviet troops began their attack on Berlin.
1951 – General MacArthur addressed the joint session of Congress after being relieved by U.S. President Truman.
1961 – FM stereo broadcasting was approved by the FCC.
1962 – The New Orleans Citizens’ Council offered a free one-way ride for blacks to move to northern states.
1967 – U.S. planes bombed Haiphong for first time during the Vietnam War.
1971 – The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of busing to achieve racial desegregation in schools.
1977 – Woody Allen’s film “Annie Hall” premiered.
1984 – Britain announced that its administration of Hong Kong would cease in 1997.
1988 – The U.S. Air Forces’ Stealth (B-2 bomber) was officially unveiled.
1989 – Scientists announced the successful testing of high-definition TV.
Source: History.com; On-This.Day.com