The Cuban Exile is Young, and It Hasn’t Died / Somos+, Javier Martinez

Cuban emigrants in Central America waiting to continue their journey north to the United States

Somos+, Javier Martinez, 9 May 2016 — The Cuban exile is not dead. I am 28 and I live outside my country for political reasons, so I consider myself an exiled Cuban. The Cuban exile has not died, and will not die as long as we Cubans have to leave our country to seek in other countries what the dictatorial government of the Castro brothers and their clique has denied us for more than six decades. I can agree that the exile now is different, but it hasn’t died, and it will not die as along as dignified Cubans are fighting for the future of their country.

To put this in context, some days ago a text circulated on social networks referring to the death of the Cuban exile.

Starting from a situation that since the 1990s has plagued Cuban emigration: all the Cubans who are benefitting under the Cuban Adjustment Act, ask for political asylum from the emigration authorities when they reach the borders of the United States but, the truth is, these new emigrants when they receive their residency permits after a year and a day, return to visit Cuba, and the vast majority of them do nothing to achieve the political freedom of the country they were forced to leave. continue reading

We cannot cover the sun with a finger, the Cuban exile has changed, and greatly. At the beginning of the Revolution the majority of exiles were from the upper class, Cubans whose property had been expropriated, members of Batista’s military, intellectuals, and also those who could see, from the first months, the socialist and communist direction the country’s leadership was taking. Today the people leaving Cuba are not only those opposed to the government, but also those who want to escape from the shortages, the neglect and the bad treatment from the government.

The vast majority of the emigrants of today prioritize their personal wellbeing above politics, even when sheltering themselves under a law that shelters them for political reasons. We could say that only one is ten is tied to opposition organizations in exile, not an exact figure, but Somos+ is a living example that not all are economic emigrants, as many of the Cubans now leaving the island are called; some, when they leave Cuba, are expressing their desire to fight for freedom.

We know that the exile has changed, these are not the years when exile groups planned armed actions from Miami. The exile has also changed, in many ways, like Cuban society has changed. The forms of struggle have moved to the social networks and today’s weapons do not assault directly; now they transform, educate, show Cubans on the island that change is possible through civic struggle, through a knowledge of our rights and a study of our duties, which leads to a gradual transformation of an entire society.

To clarify, this does not mean that the young people of the exile–and when I refer to them I am speaking on behalf of dozens of friends who belong to Somos+ and live in the United States, Spain, Ecuador and Switzerland, to mention some of the countries where young Cuban opponents to the Castro government live–are trying to occupy a space that the historic exile might say belongs to only a few, on the contrary, we want them to open its doors to us.

We call on this historic exile that some pretend has died, to join our ranks, we want to learn from them and show them that today we believe in a path that could lead us to achieving what they have been fighting for for years: full freedom for Cuba. A freedom where the rights of everyone to think differently are respected, even if we don’t agree with their ideas. That is, those who try to force us to think in a unilateral way, their time is past.

We young exiles who now form a part of the opposition to the socialist government do so from the deepest democratic convictions, and thus we respect the personal right of every person to decide what to do with his or her life, but of one thing we are certain: the exile has not died, as long as Cuba is not free we will continue to fight for the ideals of justice and freedom that we desire for our people.

Refugees / Somos+, Javier Martinez

Emigrating through Central America

Somos+, Javier Martinez, 9 November 2015 — According to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, from its Facebook page, “The Garage of Those Not Going Anywhere,” 94,000 Syrians are on migratory routes to Europe. They are trying to flee the worst civil war that has plagued this Middle Eastern nation. UN estimates show a quarter of a million refugees have fled the country, and another eight million have been displaced from their homes, while Europe, in the first half of the year alone, received around 338,000 emigrants.

But Syrians are not the only ones today leading such a stampede. There is a migratory corridor in Latin American which the world media ignores. We don’t know the reasons although what these migrants face in many cases are situations very similar to the Syrians. continue reading

I am not trying to make comparisons, I hope to make this point clear, but we need to call attention to the thousands of Cubans who are today traveling through Central American countries risking their lives, in subhuman conditions, and without the least support or recognition from the international community.

While the Syrians pay between 2,500 and 4,000 euros (approx. $2,700 – $4,300 US), Cubans have to pay between $5,500 and $8,000 US from Ecuador, although at times the price is even higher, depending on the time of the trip and the security displayed by the traffickers.

I do not doubt that the Islamic State is a terrorist group, we have seen their videos terrorizing the world, but the Central American gangs are not far behind, in El Salvador, Nicaragua or Costa Rica and even in Mexico. They kill Cubans for that simple fact, of being Cubans.

While the Syrians navigate the Mediterranean and in many cases are shipwrecked with lamentable lost of human lives, Cubans are held at various border posts in “brother countries,” forced in many cases to strip naked, raped, beaten, and held until their families pay to rescue them.

The jungles of the Darien Gap, between Colombia and Panama, where emigrants have to cross on makeshift rafts, are known for excesses, blood and death. A simple variation in the route, a shout a fear, a cry of hunger, and they fall into the lands of narco-traffickers and paramilitaries. The stories are true, told by the survivors who make it to the US.

We will never know the exact number of Cubans who have died on the journey to reach the United States from Ecuador. Never.

Some disbelievers want to compare wars and government excesses. Clearly the Syrians are facing a national situation worse than ours. In Syria you can die from a bomb or a stray bullet, in Cuba you die as an old man without political, social or economic freedoms. In the war you can lose your house, your car, your land and your business, and in Cuban you never have any of these things.

The world today condemns the Syrian government, but applauds the person of Raul Castro at the United Nations. Tens of thousands of Syrian migrants are recognized by the European countries, while thousands of Cubans are abused on their passage through Central America. The Syrians bring their religious, cultural and social conflicts to the continent that shelters them, while for years Cubans have brought healthcare, education and well-being to the people who mistreat them. There are obviously

There are solutions to save the lives of Cuban emigrants. The Cuban government could ask for guarantees for the free passage of its citizens from the Central American countries, could try to establish agreements that would care for and preserve the lives of its emigrants. The same people who, later, with their remittances sent back to Cuba, oxygenate the economy of the system. However, it hasn’t done it, it will not do it, because it would imply recognizing the expiration of a system and of a totalitarian government, that leaves no other options for its citizens, other than escape.

Syrians are political refugees and so are we Cubans. There, a dictator governs, and in our country a different dictator governs, who, of course, supports the Syrian dictator. Raul Castro and Bashar al-Assad are close friends. People emigrate because of the ineffectiveness of their leaders and their rejection of those leaders remaining in power. Although each one faces different consequences, the cause is the same: the refusal of a man to leave power.


Diario el País, España.
Spanish post

Happy on the Outside but Worried on the Inside / Somos+, Javier Martinez Delgado

Somos+, Javier Martinez Delgado, 22 October 2015 — Since 1959, when the Castro brothers hijacked a triumphant revolution that was thought to be democratic, the Cuban government has portrayed the United States as the country’s main enemy. All our economic, social and political misfortunes over the next fifty-five years would be blamed on the “restless and brutal empire,” at least until now.

Many people thought that December 17, 2014 would mark a new chapter in relations between our two countries and in some ways it has. However, the Cuban regime continues to blame its economic failures as well as its violations of civil and political rights on the same enemy: the never-ending US embargo, known in Cuba as the blockade. continue reading

One might think that 2015 would bring about improved economic and social conditions, and a gradual breakdown of repressive actions by the one-party state, but just the opposite has happened. Now who is to blame?

The US blockade? Yes, according to Esteban Morales. For those not familiar with him, Morales was director of the Center for United States Studies at the University of Havana, a Doctor of Sciences and, as a political insider, one of the people most knowledgeable about relations between the two countries.

After December 17 — or 17D as this new phase in relations between Cuba and the United States is known — Morales was present at the official opening of the US Embassy in Havana and has written several analyses explaining the positions of the two countries towards the negotiating process.

We can glean from published comments on Cubadebate and the blog The Insomniac Pupil that, in his view, the current US blockade must be completely lifted before we will see effective measures coming from the Cuban government. He writes, “…the measures taken so far by the Obama administration have not even scratched the lock. Clearly they are intended to empower those sectors of Cuban society, which — as we know — think such measures could encourage domestic political change in Cuba.”

Since December 17 the American administration has taken unilateral economic measures, largely related to the expansion of opportunities for travel to and from the island. But it has not been the only change. We are no longer on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, thus reducing the possibility military intervention, an ever-present topic of government rhetoric. Several politicians and economists have also visited the island as part of advance preparations for what are expected to be closer relations. Nothing, however, seems to be enough.

Certainly, most of the measures taken by President Obama have not affected the lives of average Cubans. The embargo remains powerful and most of the punitive measures adopted by the American government are still in place. But there are questions I ask myself.

Has the Cuban government taken any measures to relax the internal blockade? Has it reduced the price of cars rotting away in Havana dealerships? Has it raised the minimum wage for professionals? Has it taken effective measures to allow freedom of the press, of assembly, of opinion? Has it accepted calls for universal internet access? Has it granted a role to Cubans under new foreign investment laws? The answer to all these questions is NO.

17D began as a duet. Although Mr. Morales’ arguments sound too much like those overbearing speeches we have been hearing for fifty years, he could not be clearer when he says, “As long as Obama does not take measures to start seriously lifting the blockade, the sooner the better, I am sure Cuba will pay no attention or react to such limited and unilateral measures, which are directled solely at those sectors Obama wants to empower.”

The Cuban government uses the blockade as a cover to hold onto power, to justify unpopular measures, to silence the opposition, to unjustly arrest those who dare to express an opinion, to denigrate the thousands of young people — those who want to see change — by calling them mercenaries while the leaders of the Revolution live like millionaires.

By not taking steps to improve the lives of Cubans on the island, the system is choking itself. The American administration takes unilateral steps while domestically the Cuban regime maintains and strengthens its own internal blockade on society.