Of Pardons and Forgetting / Yoani Sánchez

Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

“Don’t be naive,” “You’re going to be left with a packed suitcase,” friends everywhere tell me, with the best of intentions. But an inmate always dreams that the door will open, that the jailer himself will take the keys and draw back the bars. Instead of immigration reform, the highlight of what was announced in the National Assembly yesterday was limited to a pardon for 2,900 prisoners. A subtle way of telling us that real cells are easier to eliminate than bureaucratic ones, that a certificate of release can be signed more quickly than the repeal of the exit permit. I don’t know if Raul Castro could comprehend the frustration caused by his words yesterday, the discouragement generated by the absence of the announcement his own spokespeople had predicted.

I put my suitcase back in the corner of the room, rearranged my plans for Christmas Eve and called my mother to confirm that I am staying. I imagine that in thousands of Cuban homes today they are celebrating because their relatives will soon leave some sordid penitentiary. But I also know that on this December 24th there are many who feel cheated, once again deceived. How much time does government need to erase the limitations on movement that it itself imposed on its citizens? Is it possible that in this country the word “gradually,” or the phrase “we are working to implement this or that measure,” is, in reality, synonymous with “never.” How can they continue to justify something that no longer has any ethical or legal form to sustain it? When will a presidential pardon arrive for those condemned not to enter or leave their own country?

But I don’t want the government’s immobility to make me sad in these days, nor let the stubbornness of our authorities spoil my Christmas festivities. Instead, at midnight I will empty my glass, hug my son, outline my future plans for 2012. For a short time, I will forget the bars, erase from my mind the image of a General who grants indulgences, who plays with the life of whole nation, and calls what is simply fear: Taking small steps.

24 December 2011