Aussie to swim from Cuba to Florida without shark cage

Chloe McCarden would be first to complete dangerous feat

Latitude News staff By Latitude News staff

One of the many dangers Chloe McCarden will face when she attempts to complete a solo swim from Cuba to Florida next June. (Reuters)

Latitude News brings you a round-up of articles from local news outlets around the U.S. that connect us to the rest of the world.

A dangerous journey

No one has ever swum the distance from Havana to Key West without a shark cage.

Now a 27 year-old Australian marathon swimmer named Chloe McCardel wants to be the first, reports The Miami Herald. McCardel will have to brave strong currents, poisonous man o’ war jellyfish and great white sharks to make the 105 mile trek.

“This one particular swim is probably the most high-profile swim in the world at the moment,” McCardel says.

The swim has been done before, but only with a shark cage. In June, another Australian woman swam 79 miles of the Florida Straits without one before rough seas forced her to turn back. McCardel tells the Herald she’ll be wearing a normal bathing suit and won’t be using flippers or a snorkel when she attempts to make the swim next June. She also won’t be allowed to touch another person or boat on the way over, though she will be accompanied by volunteers in kayaks for safety.

Latitude News has resolved to take more risks for the New Year, but we’d use the shark cage, thank you very much.

Living on ninety dollars a day

Lorena Hernandez , a young single mother from California, picks blueberries for a living. She gets paid six dollars for each 12-pound bucket of fruit, and usually finishes with 15 or 16 at the end of the day.  On bad days, Hernandez, who was born in Mexico twenty years ago, ends up with 13 buckets. That’s a daily salary of between $78 and $96.

Hernandez wakes up each work day at 4 AM. She’s usually home twelve hours later. Her hands are battered and bruised because her employers say gloves will damage the berries. She doesn’t get time for a lunch break. It costs her $16 dollars a day to get a ride back and forth from work, and another $8 for a babysitter for her four year-old daughter, Liliana, so you can subtract that from her meager income.

Hernandez tells New American Media that she hated working her parents’ cornfield in her native Oaxaca, but “loves” her current job:

Today, when I call [my parents], they laugh at me and remind me of how I never liked to work in the fields back home. And here I am, picking blueberries and tomatoes. They ask me why I refused to work with them and now I’m here working for someone else. Oh well, it’s the only job I know how to do.

She also picks grapes, tomatoes and cherries. In the winter, there’s not much work, so Hernandez and her daughter survive off unemployment benefits. She lives with her aunt. Someday, she’d like to go back to school. But it’s probably too late.

“My job,” she says, “will be working in the fields.”

A second chance for human smugglers

It’s a pretty safe bet that illegal immigrants are working alongside Hernandez in California’s dusty fields. Now an innovative program in San Diego’s federal court system is taking a new approach to punishing the people who smuggle them into the country.

According to a report in The San Diego Union-Tribune, first-time, non-violent offenders are being allowed to plead guilty to a felony charge of human smuggling, and then embark on a rehabilitation course of “counseling, employment and education.”

They have to get off drugs and into school or employment.

Those who successfully complete the program get a chance to clear their record of a felony, which isn’t usually possible for a federal crime like human smuggling.

“This program gets these defendants on the right path by compelling them to pursue education and employment without further contact with law enforcement,” says Laura Duffy, the U.S. attorney who started the initiative.

Instead of spending resources on trials and incarceration, the feds can use the extra money and time to break up other smuggling rings.