Tuesday, October 31, 2017

No Right Travel for Cubans: Continues to be up to the arbitrary whim of the Cuban dictatorship

Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country."

 Ofelia Acevedo Maura, and Rosa María Payá at the airport

 “The U.S. government closes, and Cuba opens,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told a meeting of pro-Castro Cuban Americans in Washington" on October 28th that "Cuban citizens in the United States would no longer need to have a special review of their Cuban passports to rehabilitate them before traveling to the island." This so-called liberalization, according to Rodriguez, is a side effect of the U.S. government expelling 15 Cuban diplomats and making the procedure more difficult due to staff shortages at the Cuban embassy. 

The Castro regime's propaganda offensive hit a snag. While trying to portray an opening on travel Cuban officials two days earlier did not allow Cuban national Ofelia Acevedo Maura, the widow of slain human rights defender Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, to return to Cuba. They stopped her at the airport in Havana and forced her to leave the country.

On the morning of Wednesday, October 26, 2017, Ofelia Acevedo, a Cuban citizen and widow of Oswaldo Paya, opposition leader, and Sakharov Prize laureate was forced by the Cuban emigration service to board a plane bound for Miami after being informed that she was forbidden to enter her country.
Ofelia returned to Havana for the first time after the attack that ended her husband's life in 2012. She was accompanied by her daughter Rosa María Payá, who resides on the island. "I return to visit the tomb of my husband murdered by the regime and to legally demand the report that the Cuban government has arbitrarily denied us for more than five years," said Ofelia Acevedo before leaving for Havana.

Upon landing in Havana, emigration services informed mother and daughter that only Rosa María could enter the country because she was a resident of the island but that the Cuban State prohibited Cuban citizen Ofelia Acevedo from entering. "We said that we would not move until they told us why they were violating my mother's right to return to her own country, but emigration officer Hernández Báez said he did not know the reason. We were there from 10:30 in the morning until four in the afternoon sitting in the emigration room surrounded by State Security agents demanding an explanation until my mother was forced to board a flight to Miami,"explained Rosa María, who stayed in Cuba, to the press. Cuban law deprives any Cuban citizen who has spent more than two consecutive years out of the country of residing in Cuba and of all their citizen rights. Cubans not residing in Cuba require a special authorization in their Cuban passport to enter the island, an authorization that was granted to Ofelia Acevedo by the Cuban consulate in Washington D.C. in August 2017. 

However, "the new measures do not prevent the Cuban government from continuing to decide who enters or leaves the national territory because the obtaining of the passport is still conditioned to the will of the State, the Cuban emigrants continue to be deprived of their residence and citizens' rights in Cuba and the Emigration services at the border continue to be able to deny entry to any Cuban non-resident in Cuba or the exit to any Cuban resident in Cuba according to the will of the State "clarified Rosa María Payá. In the last six months dozens of members of Cuban civil society have been informed at the airport by emigration services that are prohibited from leaving the country. 

This has been going on a lot longer than the past six months.

Ana Margarita Perdigón Brito denied entry to her homeland to see ailing mother
 On June 28, 2016 Ana Margarita Perdigón Brito, who was born in Sancti Spíritus, Cuba and immigrated to the United States in March of 2012, was forced to return at 10:00am that morning after having arrived the day before at 2:00pm at José Martí International Airport. She had traveled to Cuba to see her mother who who was extremely ill and might soon die. 

Ana Margarita shows cuts from broken glass during scuffle at airport (CubaNet)
CubaNet reported that Ana Margarita Perdigón Brito was a former independent journalist who had worked with various independent publications, including CubaNet among them. CubaNet reached her brother, Pablo Perdigón who had gone to pick up his sister only to find as he informed the reporter: "A colonel from the airport told me that she is turned around, that I could not see her. I had to return to Sancti Spiritus, because we rented a car to go get her." Her brother added that the soldier who met with him told him "some glass was broken and she was injured." This was the second time she had tried to travel to Cuba, the first being in March of 2015 when she and her daughter were taken off the plane while it was still in Miami and told that she was not permitted to enter. 

Blanca Reyes: Denied entry to Cuba to visit her ailing dad
Blanca Reyes, the representative of the Ladies in White in Europe, had requested on July 22, 2013 permission to return to her homeland to visit her ailing 93 year old father and on August 13, 2013 was denied by a Cuban consulate official.  Two months later on October 13, 2013 Blanca tweeted:
"My dad fractured his hip, they are going to operate, and Cuban government denies me entrance to see him. He is 93 years old."
In a later tweet she raised an important question:

"Unable to enter your home, Cuba, can someone explain that? I address the people who still support the Cuban Government." 
Two days later on October 15, 2013 over twitter received the sad news that father and daughter were never again to be reunited:

"My father died today in Cuba did not see him for 9 years the Cuban government stopped me. UNTIL WHEN MY GOD?"
Celia Cruz was not allowed to return to Cuba to say goodbye to her mom
 Even Cuban music icon Celia Cruz was not exempt from this treatment. When her mother was dying the Cuban singer was blocked by Fidel Castro from returning to Cuba to say goodbye to her mom or to attend her funeral afterwards in 1962.  

This practice still goes on today with Cubans and Cuban Americans barred arbitrarily from seeing their loved ones by the Castro regime.  The denial of the freedom to travel in these four cases demonstrates that the Castro regime divides families, picking and choosing who can travel in and out of the country. Even cases of extreme hardship when a loved one is dying are not taken into consideration. 

Between 70,000 and 300,000 Cubans are banned from returning to their homeland under arbitrary criteria set up by the dictatorship. This is a systematic human rights violation that has been going on for over half a century and despite the propaganda and spin by the Castro regime continues today as the case of Ofelia Acevedo Maura just demonstrated.

*Portions of this essay were translated from a Facebook entry by CubaDecide.

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