Cuban writer Yoani writes from the island about her 3rd time application to travel outside her country. Below are frustrated words of the eloquent blogger who has no hopes to leave the island and see the world. Here’s hoping Yoani gets her chance one day!
This time they’ve been more direct: “You are not authorized to travel,” the woman told me quietly, almost nicely, dressed in her olive-green. My attempt to get permission to leave ended without much delay and with the same negative response. I demanded an explanation from the officer, but she was only a wall of contention between my demands and her hidden bosses.
While they were telling me “no,” I recalled the declarations made by Miguel Barnet* a couple of months ago. The president of the Writers and Artists Union of Cuba (UNEAC) affirmed that all Cubans can travel, except those who have a debt to the justice system. I spent the day looking for some legal reason hanging over me, but nothing came to mind. Even the rice cooker that I bought on credit at the ration store I paid for in full, even though it only worked for two months before completely breaking down.
I have never been charged in court yet I am condemned not to leave this Island. This restriction has not been dictated by a judge, nor could I have appealed it to jury, rather it comes from the great prosecutor—with full rights—in which he’s set himself up as the Cuban State. That severe magistrate determined that the old woman sitting next to me in the office at 17th and K would not receive the ‘white card’ because her son ‘deserted’ from a medical mission. The boy who waited in the corner couldn’t travel either, because his athlete father plays now under another flag. The list of the punished is so long and the reasons so varied, that we could establish a huge group of forced islander “stay-at-homes.” It’s too bad that the vast majority are silent, in the hopes that one day they’ll be allowed to leave, as one who receives compensation for good behavior.
One of the first places of pilgrimage for those who don’t get the exit permit should be the office of the naive president of UNEAC. Maybe he can explain to us the crime for which we’ve been condemned.
To augment the papers in my collection of negatives, here is the latest document received from SIE (Immigration and Emigration Section). I am also posting my visas (above), to record the fact that my problems are not about entering another country, only about leaving mine.
It’s such a shame that so many educated Cuban youth, with all their enormous potential, are forbidden to travel outside their own country. Just to add to the layers of misinformation about Cuba’s Travel laws, another privileged Cuban citizen (with travel rights) misspoke at a press signing. Miguel Barnet is considered one of the Cuban writers most published abroad — and is President of the Artists and Writers Union of Cuba (UNEAC). This week, he criticized those who believe his countrymen cannot freely leave the island as he, who has traveled widely, does and says the only ones who can’t travel are those in prison. “People believe that we Cubans can’t travel and I’ve been to more than 47 countries,” Barnet said during a meeting with the press in a bookstore in Panama City. “Cubans are traveling,” he stressed, “the only ones who don’t travel are those in prison,” affirmed Barnet.
Ask most people in Cuba if it’s easy to travel, and they’ll roll their eyes and laugh back squirmishly. Instead of just telling their people they can’t travel, the government instead insists that you need to fill out applications, swim through gallons of red tape, pay high application fees (unrefundable if you get declined), and of course the government delivers millions of declines. In short, unless the government approves your exit, you can’t leave the country. Period. The rest is semantics.