14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 23 May 2019 — It had been like launching a ship into space. I had to get a new passport, arrange for a visa and take care of all the tasks to prepare my home and work for my days of absence. When it was time to leave for the airport on Wednesday afternoon, I felt that I had run several laps. The idea of sleeping a while on the plane made me very excited, but that moment never came.
I planned to fly to the city of Washington, stopping in Miami, with American Airlines. For three days I would be in the capital of the United States to participate in the Independent Art and Journalism workshops organized by the Cuban Soul Foundation. To experience that city in the summer, without having to carry a heavy coat with me, filled me with hope.
However, when I stood in front of the immigration officer and she asked me to take a step back I felt that all my plans were collapsing. The woman made a phone call and a few minutes later an officer arrived and took my passport. Document in hand, the man went into a small office, used the phone, returned and said: “Come with me.”
Inside the office the man said grimly: “You are banned from leaving the country, you can not travel.” When asked about the reasons, he only added: “We do not know why.” To know more details I would have to go to the Citizens’ Immigration Office at 3rd and 20th, in the municipality of Playa, where the answers stretch out and the months can pass without receiving more information.
There are already many opponents, activists and independent journalists who have been prevented from traveling, under the euphemistically titled concept of “being regulated.” Some have finally managed to leave the island while others are still waiting for clarification of their situation. In some cases, after a refusal, they were told it was a mistake, which led me to ask the Immigration officer if perhaps they were confusing me with another person.
“No,” the man reiterated, assuring me that, in addition to seeing it in the National Identity System (SUIN), he had confirmed it by telephone with his superiors.
The new Immigration Law, in force since January 2013, includes in its Article 25 the prohibition of departure “for reasons of public interest or national security,” but nobody has yet told me that this is my case. As I am sure that I do not have any pending cases with the law, nor debts to a bank, nor I am a witness in any trial, I only have to conclude that it is a reprisal.
In recent years, denying one’s exit abroad has become a repressive method of State Security against uncomfortable voices. Many times the refusal of permission to travel is not permanent, but arbitrary and intermittent, which greatly hinders the affected person’s ability to lodge complaints with international organizations.
In my case, I was not allowed to board that plane because I practice journalism. I happened to be on the list of the “regulated” for relating the reality that surrounds me and I do not know when I will leave this Island again because I work in that “dangerous sector” that is the independent press. The relationship is direct: Every article I publish distances me still further from the steps of an airplane, but every story I bring to light is one more step to break down the wall of official lies.
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