Thursday, June 26, 2014

How Cuba’s State Security Welcomed Me on Returning to Havana

How Cuba's State Security Welcomed Me on Returning to Havana
June 25, 2014
Isbel Diaz

HAVANA TIMES – After participating in the congress of the Association of
Latin American Studies in Chicago, I returned home to Cuba this past
June 20th, following a one-month stay in the United States. I arrived at
terminal 2 of Havana's Jose Marti International Airport to be received
by Cuban State Security agents. Customs officers then proceeded to take
away my cell phone and other belongings.

I was detained at the airport for three hours and all of my personal
belongings were meticulously inspected. The officials were chiefly
interested in all of the documents I carried with me and all electronic
devices that could store information.

As such, in addition to my phone (which stored all of my personal
contacts and private notes), two external hard disks and their cables,
two cell phones I had brought my nephew and my boyfriend as gifts and an
SD memory with family videos were confiscated, even though the
authorities didn't know what their contents were and didn't even take
the trouble of asking.

All of these devices were classified as items for personal use by the
customs authorities themselves – the number of items didn't exceed the
limit established by Resolution 320 / 2011, which establishes what
imports are of a commercial nature, nor did their respective prices
surpass the limits established in the Value List published under
Resolution 312 / 2011.

It is therefore quite evident that these confiscations are the result of
the arbitrariness and excessive monitoring that all Cubans with
free-thinking postures that are critical of the country's
socio-political reality are subjected to.

The fact that Lt. Colonel Omar, a well-known State Security officer,
came in and out of the premises, reveals that the reasons behind this
incident are clearly political.

I was given absolutely no explanation as to why my belongings were being
confiscated. I was only referred to the customs resolution that empowers
these officials to retain what they see fit. The contents and scope of
the said resolution were not explained to me either.

What was explained to me were the reasons they confiscated several of
the documents I carried with me. According to the Confiscation and
Notification document, they "tarnish the country's morals and customs."
The documents in question were:

- Historian Frank Fernandez' classic El anarquismo en Cuba ("Anarchism
in Cuba"), a book the author had sent to the Cuban Anthropology
Institute (as the dedication he had handwritten attested to). Fernandez
had learned that a group was studying the issue at the institute and he
wanted to contribute to the work with his research on Cuba's workers'
and anarcho-syndicalist movements.

- The open letter dissident Manuel Cuesta Morua had addressed to the
Association of Latin American Studies, to which all Cubans who
participated in this year's LASA congress had access.

- A page from a New Herald newspaper with part of an article dealing
with the LGBTI community on the island and showing a photograph of the
Day Against Homophobia activities organized every year by Cuba's
National Sexual Education Center headed by Mariela Castro. By chance,
the page also showed a photo of dissident Yoani Sanchez. This
immediately piqued the interest of the customs official, who labeled the
document "anti-Cuban propaganda" without having read the article.

The only item that could in any way be construed as an affront on Cuban
morals and customs is the photo of the Day Against Homophobia
activities, which shows several people wearing colorful feathers singing
on a Cuban stage. This homophobic posture must be condemned by our
community on the island.

I publicly denounce this violation of my rights and abuse of power
before the international community, and know that I will demand the
immediate return of my cell phone and the rest of my belongings, all
acquired legally.

I am not the first person who suffers this type of violence and I will
probably not be the last, not while the Cuban political police continue
to enjoy the prerogatives and privileges they do now.

Source: How Cuba's State Security Welcomed Me on Returning to Havana -
Havana -

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