11 months, 29 days and 23 hours

6 Oct

One of my personal heroines is Yoani Sanchez, Cuban blogger who fights every day against the oppression of the harsh dictatorship that has made this amazing country a suffering one.

After that introduction, you’re probably thinking I’m a rightsy and don’t really understand the great struggles that Cuba has had to go through to survive the embargo and how despite all that, they still have great levels of education, public health, nutrition, culture and all the rest. But I’m not, I’m actually a lefty if you want to categorize me and I do recognize that Cuba has been able to keep good indexes in all the mentioned fields, which are very important. The thing is, I’m a lefty who considers “the other rights” important too.

I also have family members who fled Cuba due to persecution and have other family members who are still there because… well because there’s no other option really. One of the “the other rights” I consider important is the right to freedom of movement. An absolute aspect of this rights is that everyone should be able to leave and return to their country of origin. Not Cubans. They need to cross their fingers in hope to win an exit permit in a raffle or apply for a tarjeta blanca which, if granted, will be valid for 11 months and 29 nine days. One more day and that’s it, you become a dreaded concept in the international migration limbo: a Cuban over-stayer.

This means if you are not a refugee you become labeled as an irregular migrant, but one that cannot really return to his country of origin. You’ve lost that right and they won’t let you in. If you can’t go in, at the end of the day you can’t exercise any of your rights. The limit to your freedom of movement ends up in a violation of all your other rights as a Cuban national; including those that left wing regimes like Cuba’s praise themselves on upholding.

Yoani is one of the Cubans who has been denied her exit permit several times since 2007. She has been invited to accept several writing and journalism awards but has not been granted the amazing privilege to do so personally. She constantly writes about human rights abuses in Cuba and her blog has been translated into 20 languages. Yet she has to write from the shadows and in danger. So much danger she has had to file a petition in front of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights along with precautionary measures to protect her life and integrity.

Yesterday she was arrested on her way to way to the trial of Angel Carromero, who heads the youth wing of Spain’s ruling People’s Party. Carromero faces manslaughter charges over the death of the prominent dissident, Oswaldo Paya. Yoani was released after 30 hours during which she refused to eat or drink any water and official Cuban reports state she was arrested because she was traveling with the intention of creating a provocation and a media show on the trial. Another one of “the rights” that are not in the Cuban menu: freedom of expression. To be fair, you can express yourself; but if yourself doesn’t agree with the Castros you will then know the joys and luxuries of Cuban prisons, just as many political activists, human rights defenders and journalists have.

This is just a few examples of the many human rights that are actually a dream for Cubans. I hear and fear when my human rights colleagues and friends defend the Cuban regime. Don’t get me wrong, I love Che’s ideals too. My favorite of his quotes is “el revolucionario verdadero está guiado por grandes sentimientos de amor”. The true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love. Amazing words, too bad he didn’t practiced what he preached. The Cuban revolution was and is guided by fear and oppression. By murder, torture and tears. To recognize that does not imply that right wing regimes have not done the same. But to justify it is worse.

No system or ideology should have that power. When we start putting the system before individual and collective rights (they can’t be separated), we’re just wrong. It’s that simple.

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One Response to “11 months, 29 days and 23 hours”

  1. Johan Ekman October 22, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    Brilliant blog this! Very thoughtful insights. Keep 'em coming dammit!

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