Recently I received a message from a reader who says his name is Osmel Camino, a Cuban “deserter from a medical mission in Haiti from ten and a half years ago,” in his own words, and who states he currently lives in the Dominican Republic. Osmel’s message refers to an interview Arleen Rodríguez Derivet, a journalist on Cuban television, did with the ex-U.S. president Jimmy Carter, on his visit to Havana March 28-30. In the transcript of it, alluding to the 5 spies imprisoned in the United States, Carter raised as an argument as a reason to pardon these Cuban State Security fighters, “These men have suffered greatly and lost family members without being able to be at their side…”
Osmel, rightly outraged, expressed his indignation at so much cynicism, and asked me to make his reality public, writing this paragraph in his message which I quote: “I want people to know of my case. I have never been able to enter my country since I decided to emigrate for economic reasons in 2000. The government will not let me, despite the fact that I’ve never engaged in any kind of political activity or committed any crimes.
Exactly a year ago my father died in Guantanamo City, and I asked the Cuban consulate to travel to his funeral. The Cuban government once again refused me entry into my own country. The Cuban government violates my rights every day by refusing me permission to travel to Cuba, which I have asked for on three occasions. Tell me what human rights they are talking about!!!”
I don’t think I can calculate how many cases similar to Osmel’s have occurred over half a century of dictatorship. One of the most well known is that of the beloved Celia Cruz, whom the government refused to allow to attend her mother’s funeral in Cuba, and she finally died herself without ever returning to the Island, but surrounded by the love of her fans on both shores, and with the hatred of the Castros unable to prevent millions of Cubans mourning her loss and greatly honoring her burial.
But in reality, there are countless anonymous Cubans who have been victims of such violations on the part of a government that hijacks all the rights of its citizens and applies this type of punishment — selective and unjustified — with impunity, at its whim and discretion. Many natives of this Island have died in exile without ever returning to visit Cuba, or have lost loved ones on the Island without the consolation of taking leave of them.
But I say again to out compatriot Osmel: Regardless of the political sympathies of any person, no government has the moral authority to restrict the free flow of citizens in any way. This is the essential truth of the problem. Neither you, nor anyone else, should have to “behave” to please the regime to have the right to freely enter and leave their own country. That is, what is truly humiliating is not permission or not to enter Cuba; what is degrading is the very existence of the “application or entry permit.” This is the essence of evil. That they deny it is nothing more than the effect.
In your case, as in so many others, it’s obvious that you are being punished for “betrayal” when serving a “humanitarian mission” fabricated by Fidel Castro as a part of his hallucinatory ideological crusades. Other cases are even more inexplicable, like that of a young friend of mine, recent University graduate, who “stayed behind” on a work trip before starting her “social service.” More than seven years have passed since then and she’s been denied entry into Cuba on several occasions. She, who as a successful professional abroad due to her own efforts has traveled to several countries; but she has never been able to return to the country of her birth. Fortunately, she will outlive the system that is punishing her, but the price of her personal independence has been — as for thousands and thousands of Cubans – tremendously painful.
Some day we will have to do the math on how much damage has been done to the national sensibility and to the Cuban family, how much personal pain the arrogance of the ruling caste has caused, how much talent we have lost that could have been put into service for the progress of Cuba, and how much uprooting we owe to this long Antillean satrapy.
For now, Osmel reminds us once again of an aspect almost forgotten in the midst of so much tragedy; a crime that could not speak more to the infinite contempt this regime feels for the Cuban people. We will not forget.
April 14 2011