Who is Separating Cuban Families?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009
For those that habitually argue -- and mislead -- that U.S. policy is responsible for separating Cuban families, here's an important reminder:

According to today's Nuevo Herald newspaper, there are at least 621 Cubans that have been granted visas by the U.S., but are being denied "exit permits" to leave the island by the Castro regime.

Of those 621, the U.S. Interests Section in Havana has identified 358 as principal solicitors and 263 as solicited by family members abroad.

And these numbers are from the current 2009 fiscal year alone.

Cuba, along with North Korea, are amongst the few nations in the world that require its citizens to obtain "exit permits" prior to leaving the country, henceforth making them hostages within their own homeland.

The U.S. State Department's 2008 Report on Cuba's Human Rights Practices provides further important details on this violation of fundamental human rights by the Castro regime:

Persons routinely denied exit permits included medical personnel, men of military age, dissidents, and citizens with certain political or religious beliefs. An unpublished government policy denies exit permits to medical professionals until they have performed, on average, six to eight years of service in their profession after requesting permission to travel abroad; nurses and medical technicians waited an average of two to three years to receive exit permission.

The government denied exit permits for several years to relatives of individuals who migrated illegally (for example, merchant seamen and sports figures who defected while out of the country). The government frequently withheld exit visas to control dissidents.

The government denied exit permission to human rights activists who held valid foreign travel documents. In April authorities refused permission to blogger Yoani Sanchez to travel to Spain to receive a prestigious prize for journalism. Noted dissidents Francisco Chaviano and Jorge Luis Perez Garcia (Antunez) were both refused permission to travel abroad for treatment of serious medical conditions that developed during their long prison terms.

The government used both internal and external exile. The law permits authorities to bar an individual from a certain area, or to restrict an individual to a certain area, for a period of one to 10 years. Under this provision, authorities may exile any person whose presence in a given location is considered "socially dangerous." The authorities routinely warned emigrating dissidents and their family members that speaking out against the government abroad could result in repercussions for relatives remaining in Cuba, such as loss of employment or denial of permission to leave the country.

Those seeking to emigrate legally alleged they also faced fines, reprisals, harassment, and intimidation by the government; involuntary job transfers; threatened arrest; and dismissal from employment.

Fees for medical exams, exit permissions, passport costs, and airport taxes are payable only in convertible pesos, and amounted to approximately 630 convertible pesos ($680.40) for an adult, or nearly three years' salary. These fees represented a significant hardship, particularly for migrants who had been fired from their jobs for being "politically unreliable" and had no income. At year's end some would-be migrants were unable to leave the country because of inability to pay exit fees. Authorities routinely dispossessed migrants and their families of their homes and most of their belongings before permitting them to leave the country. The government also demanded payment of hefty fines for past attempts to leave the country illegally.

The law provides for imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of 300 to 1,000 pesos ($11 to $38) for unauthorized departures by boat or raft. The government also sometimes applied a law on trafficking in persons to would-be migrants. The law provides for imprisonment from two to five years for those who organize, promote, or incite illegal exit from national territory.

Under the terms of the 1994 U.S.-Cuba Migration Accord, the government agreed not to prosecute or retaliate against migrants returned from international or U.S. waters, or from the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo, after attempting to emigrate illegally if they had not committed a separate criminal offense. However, in practice many would-be migrants experienced harassment and discrimination such as fines, expulsion from school, job loss, and detention in prison.