Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Sad Ballad of Cuban Emigration

The Sad Ballad of Cuban Emigration / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner
Posted on November 21, 2015

14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 21 November 2015 — Another
stampede of Cubans. It happens from time to time. An editorial in Costa
Rica's La Nación offers a strong description of how the government of
that country reacted: "First duty, to protect the victims." The Costa
Ricans gave them transit visas and, as they are stranded at the border,
quickly built provisional shelters to feed and house them.

Bravo! This is what a civilized nation does. These are not animals. They
are more than 1,700 people. They are not criminals, as a Nicaraguan
Sandinista deputy unjustly labeled them. The criminals are the military
and the police who are clubbing unarmed and peaceful immigrants. They
are frightened individuals and families – children, pregnant women –
almost all young, who are trying to reach the United States border by
land, after traveling over a thousand miles from Ecuador.

Nor are they going to break the laws of the country they are heading to.
In the United States a favorable law awaits them, enacted over 60 years
ago in the midst of the Cold War. If they reach US territory they are
granted a provisional parole and then allowed to regularize their status
at the end of one year. They left Cuba legally and they will live
legally in the United States. What sense does it make to stop them?

Not to mention that this measure that protects Cubans has a pedagogical
utility. It serves to demonstrate that the best way to solve the problem
of the undocumented is to arbitrate some formula that allows them to
study, pay taxes, be productive and integrate themselves into the nation
in which they are living. The notable success of Cubans in the United
States is due, to a certain extent, to the fact that they can rebuild
their lives quickly and fight to conquer the "American Dream."

The same editorial, with anger and astonishment, reproaches the Cuban
authorities who do not protect their own citizens. If 1,700 Costa
Ricans, Uruguayans, Chileans, Spaniards, or people from any normal
country in which the state is at the service of the people, found
themselves in the situation these Cubans find themselves in, the
government in question would have tried to protect them, the president
would have publicly expressed his solidarity, and the foreign minister
would have allocated resources to help them.

Cuba is different. The dictatorship has spent 56 years humiliating and
mistreating every person inclined to emigrate. Anyone who leaves is an
enemy. While civilized nations have institutions dedicated to supporting
emigrants, without asking them their reasons for exercising their right
to settle where they can and where they please, on this unhappy island
the government plunders them, insults them and treats them as traitors.

So it has been since 1959, when at the airport adults were stripped of
all the valuables they carried, including engagement rings, right up
until today, when the Cuban government asks that of Nicaragua to use a
heavy hand to stop the flow of Cubans. Nothing has changed.

The use of terror against emigrants reached a paroxysm in 1980, with the
so-called "Mariel Boatlift"

The use of terror against emigrants reached a paroxysm in 1980, with the
so-called "Mariel Boatlift," named after the port from which they
embarked. The political police organized thousands of "acts of
repudiation" to punish those who desired to leave. They shouted insults
and beat them. In a couple of cases, it rose to killing them. An English
teacher died this way. His students, spurred on by the adults of the
Communist Party, murdered him by kicking him in the head.

At that time I lived in Spain and gave work to a Cuban cameraman,
originally from the Canary Islands, who survived these outrages. He had
arrived in Madrid emotionally devastated. When he said he was leaving
the country, his fellow workers hung a sign around his neck that said "I
am a traitor," threw him to the floor and made him walk on his knees
between two rows of people who jeered and spat on him.

The Mariel Boatlift exodus (afterwards there were others) resulted in
130,000 new exiles, among whom there was a remarkable group of
homosexuals forced to emigrate, many valuable artists (like the
excellent writer Reinaldo Arenas), mixed in with crazy people, criminals
and murderers taken from prison to contaminate the group and "prove"
that only undesirable people did not want to live in the communist
paradise. For this homophobic government a murderer and a homosexual
were the same thing.

Apart from the human tragedy in the journey of those emigrants now
protected by the Costa Ricans, what is happening in Central America
makes us understand why this dictatorship, despite its attempt to show a
reformist face, continues to believe that Cubans are slaves without
rights or dignity. Pure escoria – scum – as they often call those who,
despite everything, are willing to make any sacrifice not to live in
that outrageous madhouse. Nothing substantial has changed.

Source: The Sad Ballad of Cuban Emigration / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto
Montaner | Translating Cuba -

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