The Emigrant Must Earn Brownie Points to Enter Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton
14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 21 July 2016 — With blood-stained
clothes and wounds and bruises on her arms, Ana Margarito Perdigon Brito
returned to Miami from Havana's Jose Marti Airport this past June. No
one knew how to rationalize that the Cuban government prohibited her, a
citizen of that country whose paperwork was in order, from entering the
land of her birth.
"It is a form of revenge by the Cuban government towards emigrants. It
is a type of blackmail by which, if you behave as they desire – which is
to say, without being rebellious – you can enter your country; but if
you dare to criticize the regime you may lose that right," says the
activist who left Cuba in 2012 in order to live in the US.
The Cuban exile, who lives in Homestead in south Florida, tried to enter
Cuba for a second time in order to visit her sick mother in the Sancti
Spiritus province. "The first time they turned me away at the Miami
airport when I tried to fly to Santa Clara. On this second occasion,
they let me arrive in Havana, but once I was there, they told me I could
not enter the country because, according to the system, I was prohibited
entry into Cuba," she says.
Her passport is up-to-date and valid with the corresponding renewals
plus the authorization, an entrance permit for which Cubans living
abroad pay and that supposedly has "lifelong" validity, although it can
be nullified by Cuban officials.
She tried in vain to convince the immigration agents to let her speak
with a supervisor or to explain to her by what rationale they impeded
her access to a universal right. The answer was always the same: "The
system indicates that you are prohibited entry. You must go back," while
they insisted that if she wanted to enter the country, she would have to
seek a humanitarian visa.
The practice is not new; from Arturo Sandoval to Celia Cruz, a
considerable number of Cubans have had to deal with the all-powerful
Bureau of Immigration and Nationality in the last six decades in order
to enter the Island. In many cases unsuccessfully as has happened to
several people who could not even attend funerals for their parents.
Many experts thought that with the new immigration law enacted in 2012,
the situation would change, but it has not.
Perdigon believes that this is another sign of the Cuban government's
unscrupulousness as regards the diaspora. "They do not forgive me for
the activism that I carried out within Cuba," she explains.
Receiving no answer about her case, she tried to escape from the room
where the immigration officials had taken her, and she was hit and
wounded in a struggle. "I tried not to beg for my right but to win it
[because] no one is obliged to obey unjust laws," as Marti said.
Originally from the Sancti Spiritus province, she and her family
belonged to several independent movements, joining political parties and
initiatives favoring the promotion of human rights.
The passport of exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito (14ymedio)
"On many occasions we were repressed, and we suffered acts of
repudiation. One afternoon, my little daughter came running in a fright
to warn me that many screaming people were coming. It was an act of
repudiation that they had prepared for me in the neighborhood. On
another occasion, they gave us a tremendous beating in a town called
Tuinucu and jailed us," she remembers.
Her case is not unique. According to independent statistics compiled by
media, dozens of similar stories have happened in recent years.
Nevertheless, there are no official data about the number of Cubans who
have been denied entry into the country.
"People do not demand their rights publicly, and they don't denounce
these arbitrary situations," comments Laritza Diversent Cambara, manager
of the Cubalex Legal Information Center, via telephone from Cuba. "When
we go to review statistics, countries like Canada have more complaints
about human rights violations than Cuba, and we all know that is because
of ignorance or lack of information about demanding their rights,
because if there is anything abundant in this country, it is human
rights violations," she contends.
According to the lawyer, denial of entry by nationals is not
contemplated in Cuban legislation. "It is a discretionary decision by
State Security or the Bureau of Immigration and Nationality, but there
exist no laws that regulate it, so people are exposed to the whims and
abuses of officials," opines the jurist.
"They cannot give the reasons for which they deny entry into the
country. They do not argue that he is a terrorist threat or that the
person lacks some document or formality. It is simply an arbitrary
decision," she adds.
The practice is not limited only to dissidents, activists and opponents.
Diversent says that her office handled the case of a rafter who left the
Island in 2011 and who continued traveling regularly, until in 2015 the
Cuban authorities told him that he could not enter the country again.
14ymedio has known of similar cases of journalists, members of religious
orders and doctors who took refuge in the Cuban Medical Professional
Parole (CMPP) offered by the United States.
"One time I made some statements to a local newspaper in Spain about the
hardship suffered by the Cuban people, and on return to the Island
several officers confronted me in the airport, telling that if I did
something like that again, they would revoke my temporary religious
residency," said a Spanish missionary who prefers for safety reasons not
to be named.
The methods for preventing entry are as varied as the steps to take for
immigration procedures in Cuba. There are people who have been denied
passport authorization, as was the case of the well-known visual artist
Aldo Menendez. On other occasions, Cubans are turned back at the last
minute from the airport from which they tried to fly to the Island, as
occurred to activist Ana Lupe Busto Machado, or they wait until they
land in Havana after having spent 450 dollars on passport preparation,
20 dollars on the entrance permit or 180 dollars on the renewals, plus
the price of passage from Miami which approaches 500 dollars, to tell
them that they cannot ever enter their country again.
14ymedio tried to communicate with the Cuban Office of Immigration and
Nationality, but authorities refused to respond to our questions.
"This kind of procedure should not surprise anyone," says attorney
Wilfredo Vallin, founder of the Cuban Law Association. "The government
has a long history of actions that do not abide by its own law. Until
recently wasn't there in effect an express and unconstitutional
prohibition against nationals entering hotels? What about human mobility
within the Island? Isn't that regulated, too?"
Translated by Mary Lou Keel
Source: The Emigrant Must Earn Brownie Points to Enter Cuba / 14ymedio,
Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -