Brazil, the New Destination of the Cuban-Russian Couple Who Escaped From Havana

Carlos Jiménez Vasco and his wife Daria this Thursday in line to process their situation in Brazil. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana,3 August 2023 — Cuban Carlos Jiménez Vasco and his wife Daria, of Russian nationality, managed to travel to Brazil after months of unsuccessful waiting to obtain political asylum in Trinidad and Tobago. Harassed by State Security in Havana, the couple escaped from Cuba in April and requested help from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Port of Spain. The delay of the officials and the procedures forced them, once again, to leave.

From Brazil — where they arrived by bus after traveling to Guyana — Jiménez tells 14ymedio this Thursday that he and his wife are already being looked after by the authorities of that country, which are much more “competent” than those of Trinidad. “They have better conditions and a quicker system, which offers us basic human rights,” he says with relief.

“We are going to be protected by the law of this country and they will not be able to do anything to us,” he adds, alluding to the surveillance by Cuban counterintelligence, that, he says, they suffered during their stay in Port of Spain. Jiménez estimates that by Thursday they will already have “the necessary papers” to regularize their situation in the Latin American country as refugees.

The couple wants to maintain discretion about the steps they will take next and tells this newspaper that they consider it important that it is known which country they are in, “so that the Cuban dictatorship does not secretly try anything against us.”

“Brazil does have refuge agreements included in its law,” says Jiménez, who believes that leaving Trinidad was, like escaping from the Island, a triumph. “No matter how much the dictatorship tries, human beings can do more. We beat them, they couldn’t destroy us. That’s how we feel now,” he concludes.

Despite the fact that the independent media closely followed the case and numerous activists denounced the precarious conditions suffered by the couple, the UNHCR office in Port of Spain did not give a positive response to the young couple. The officials ignored the case and avoided meeting with Carlos and Daria, despite the fact that they “planted” themselves on more than one occasion in front of the agency’s headquarters.

Both young people had fled St. Petersburg, where Carlos was about to be recruited by the Russian Army to fight in Ukraine, and then from Havana, where he had official residence. The ideological discrepancies with his family, who support the regime, and the harassment of counterintelligence caused the couple to move, in an odyssey that they describe as “a daily battle for survival.”

The biggest fear was that they would be deported. “That would be fatal for us because they would separate us and send us to our own countries where we would not be safe and could be arrested,” Jiménez explained to 14ymedio at the time.

In Port of Spain they were scammed by the owners of the place where they stayed, with scarce resources and “sleeping with rats.” When denouncing the situation in the Living Water Community – “UNHCR’s right-hand arm in Trinidad” – the officials seemed to suggest that the owners of the house were right to throw them out.

They survived all this time thanks to the Cuban community in Trinidad and Tobago and some organizations that provided them with food and help. However, the situation became unsustainable and forced them to look for a better destination. Now they once again ask for help from Cubans outside the Island to start life in Brazil. “The process is going well,” summarizes Jiménez, from the immigration offices. “What in Trinidad takes months, here they do in a day.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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