The Cuban Customs Office Confiscates Parcels Addressed To Dissidents / Laritza Diversent

In recent times the postal parcels from overseas sent to Cubans who publicly express disagreement with the government are being confiscated. The Post Customs, an entity belonging to the General Customs of the Republic has been using the seizures of shipments originating from foreign countries as a filter applied to the dissidents.

My own case can serve as an example. In less than two months they confiscated two parcels sent to me from the United States. I was notified of the most recent of these on August 13th by means of Confiscation Order No. 1209 from the 29th of July and a document of Retention and Notification, both signed by Danny Samanda Rivero, a Customs Control inspector.

If this happens once, it could be a coincidence. The second time it could be seen as an act of cruelty. But if the same thing also occurs to other persons sharing your political views then it is a case of state policy. A subtle way to punish those who dare question the system.

Undoubtedly, the administrative measure has a political background. The list of the affected ones includes Yoani Sánchez, Silvio Benítez, Dania Virgen García, Ubaldo Manuel León, Yusnaimy Jorge, Aini Martín, Vladimir Alejo y Julio Beltrán Iglesias, among other opponents of the regime.

According to inspector Samanda Rivero, the content of the package addressed to me “put the general national interest at risk.” He ordered the confiscation invoking Resolution No. 5-96 of the Head of the General Customs of the Republic. The first confiscation on June 8th was effected by Confiscation Order No. 978. Raimundo Pérez García, a Customs Control inspector, seized the parcel using the same argument.

The Resolution No. 5 of the General Customs, effective since 1996, allows the application within the country of the Convention for the suppression of the circulation of, and traffic in, obscene publications. Furthermore it bans the sending of “any object with content considered to be contrary to the morality, the proper conduct or the general interest of the nation.” Moreover, it stipulates that the confiscated goods are to be turned over to the Interior Ministry.

In both confiscation orders enforced against me the inspectors Pérez García and Samada Rivero failed to explain how those imported items “affect the general interest of the nation.” The two confiscated packages contained something like: an MP3 player, a photo camera, pencils, ballpoint pens, pencil sharpeners, notebooks, wax crayons, balloons, toilet soap, disposable razors, deodorants, plasters, toothbrush and toothpaste. All of these are products sold in state and convertible peso shops on the Island.

At the end of July I lodged an appeal before the Head of the Posts Customs requesting the first confiscation order be overturned. Dated August 17th I was notified of the Appeal Resolution No. 231 of 2010 that dismissed my claim.

The official, Raúl Gómez Badía, the highest authority of the institution deemed the measure imposed by inspector Pérez García appropriate. After having exhausted all available administrative remedies my next step will be to assert my rights before the courts.

Although the “new customs offensive” may have another objective. To destroy the hesitant attempts to reestablish the communications between Cuba and the United States. The confiscated goods were sent to me from the northern country by the Universal Postal Service agency of the Office of International Exchange.

On September 17th 2009, Cuban and United States representatives initiated talks in Havana that envisioned the resumption of direct postal services between both countries. At the end of the meeting that took place under much secrecy the Cuban delegation issued a statement.

It´s worth making it clear that the majority of Cubans don´t think highly of the customs services, above all of those at the airports. A proof of this is the video Abuse at the Cuban Customs by the acclaimed composer and singer Cándido Fabré.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by:

August 31, 2010