By Guillermo Martinez in Sun-Sentinel:
New year marks another year of imprisonment for Cuba's citizenry
The message came via Twitter. Somebody re-tweeted to me what John Lee Anderson of The New Yorker magazine said about Raúl Castro's decision not to give Cubans the basic right to travel outside the island.
The tweet said: "RCastro's decision not to lift travel restricts a mistake. Most Cubans r young & wish to see world. Most love Cuba & will return. Let em go!"
Anderson's quote made me think of a new year for Cubans; a new year in which they still have to endure a brutal totalitarian regime that has governed the island for 53 years this coming Sunday. This is a regime that had close relations with Libya and still has them with Iran; a regime that decreed three days of national mourning to mark the death of North Korea's "dear leader." A country where the average Cuban earns 20 convertible pesos a month and where people are still beaten and jailed for demanding the most basic of human rights.
I echo Anderson's comments that it is indeed a shame that Cuba's regime did not lift travel restrictions on those who live on the island prison. And I say island prison because, though most countries in the world have restrictions on just who can cross its border to come in, few have such draconian restrictions on who can leave their homeland, as does Cuba.
Most Cubans are not allowed to travel. Those bloggers, like Yoani Sánchez, who oppose the regime are not permitted to travel to receive the international awards they have won. Neither can the majority on the island. Except for those high government officials, the members of a privileged class, most just cannot afford it.
What is inconceivable to me is that writers and others like Anderson are naïve enough to believe in this day and age that Cubans who would leave the island would return. He says the young people love their homeland.
Those of us who left more than five decades ago do so also. Yet the experience is that most that leave don't go back, except to visit. Very few choose to go back to live in a country where there are no freedoms and no rights other than those given to them capriciously by the Communist regime.
My distinguished colleague joins a long list of naive American, European and world leaders who view Cuba with rose-tinted glasses. These lenses block out the the tyrannical nature of its leaders. It is the longest family dictatorship in the world. Millions have left their homeland to live in other countries. Few have ever returned willingly to live there.
It is a regime that has made many promises and kept few. The last time I was allowed to travel to the country where I was born was in 1978. Cuba was about to release 3,500 political prisoners and wanted the world's media, particularly those in South Florida, to know about it.
Since then the jails have been full. The regime is always ready to release a political prisoner to a friendly visitor much as one would give a rose on Valentine's Day to a loved one. Cuba grows prisoners as others do flowers.
Thus on a day they were to have lifted the travel restrictions, they freed another 2,900 prisoners — nobody knows how many were political, for in Cuba the distinction between a political and a common criminal is in the eyes of the regime. Yet, within the past few months, hundreds have been arrested throughout the island. Their crime is their demand for the release of political prisoners and to have the regime recognize the most basic human rights.
Still, people like Anderson, and former President Jimmy Carter, and singer Harry Belafonte and many others believe the regime is good and that Cubans love their leaders.
Last week, fishermen off the coast of Florida found a solidly built boat constructed with an old car's motor. It was seaworthy and would have made it across the Florida Straits if it had not been for the U.S. Coast Guard vessel that intercepted it and its passengers at sea. Little has been said about the would-be refugees, other than they will be returned to the island they were fleeing.
I wonder if Anderson might ask them if they are going back to Cuba willingly.
I also know that hoping that the New Year might bring freedom and liberty to Cuba might be an impossible dream. It is a dream that has been frustrated year after year for more than half a century.
Maybe I should be more modest in what I wish for in 2012. I would be happy to see people like Anderson realize that Cubans live in an island jail and no matter how much we love the place where we were born, both young and old would only want to live there if basic freedoms were respected. Until then, the Castro brothers have to keep the doors shut so prisoners won't all rush out of jail at the same time.
- ► 2013 (475)
- ► 2012 (1158)
12/25 - 01/01
- On This New Year's Eve
- U.S. Calls (Again) for Release of Alan Gross
- A Worsening of Censorship
- Fidel Must Know From Experience
- Quote of the Day
- Another Year of Imprisonment
- Keeping Anderson Cooper Honest
- More Shameless "Purposeful" Cuba Trips
- Free Ivonne Malleza Galano
- Ahmadinejad Heading to Cuba (Again)
- Is Fulton Armstrong Violating the Law?
- How Quickly Regimes Can Collapse
- Young Cubans Lead Street Protests
- Shamefully Using Fidel for Business
- Where's the "Reform"?
- Castro's Christmas Gift for Fariñas
- How to Keep Losing Cuban-American Votes
- ▼ 12/25 - 01/01 (17)
- ► 2010 (1043)
- ► 2009 (933)