It was hot and dark and mosquitoes bit at his skin as 23-year-old Jose Fuente Lastre boarded a raft with eight other men, intent on fleeing Cuba.

Their flimsy vessel built from scraps of metal, wood and inner tubes had failed repeatedly. Oil leaked. The propeller sputtered.

“I’m not going,” Lastre had announced. “It seems we weren’t meant to leave.”

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