A Cuban pilot lands at a South Florida airport in a Russian plane

A Cuban pilot landed this Friday in southeastern Florida, in the United States, with a Russian-made plane and declared himself a deserter, airport authorities reported.

Around 11:30 a.m. (3:30 p.m. GMT), the pilot arrived aboard a single-engine Russian Antonov AN-2 plane at the Dade-Collier airfield, located in the Everglades, the huge wetland reserve that covers South Florida, Miami airport officials said.

"He said he was a deserter from Sancti Spiritus"a province in the center of Cuba, specified the same sources.

The CiberCuba media outlet, which was the first to report the news, identified the aviator as Ruben Martinez and said that he worked for the Cuban Air Services Company (ENSA).

Agents from the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arrived at the landing site to investigate what happened, airport sources said.

Numerous Cubans have tried to reach the United States in recent months after leaving their country, hit by its worst economic crisis in three decades with food, medicine and fuel shortages.

Between October 2021 and August 2022, nearly 200,000 Cubans were intercepted by US authorities, according to CBP, after enter the border with Mexico or cross the Straits of Florida in precarious boats.

A sharp increase over the same period last year, when the United States intercepted some 30,000 Cubans.

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