The Desperation to Flee Cuba Provokes Turmoil in the Lines for Visas

Security patrols guarding the Colombian Embassy in Havana, in the municipality of Playa. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 19 January 2022 — The desperation of Cubans to leave the island is becoming more and more evident. Some thirty people staged an altercation this Wednesday at the gates of the Colombian consulate in Havana when they were informed that their transit visas, necessary for the trip they intend to to Nicaragua via Bogotá, were not ready.

Some of them travel this Thursday, but the officer — a Cuban, not a Colombian — who guards the consular headquarters no longer let them pass. “I’m going to say it once, I’m going to hand over 44 passports. When I finish with this list, everyone can go, because we’re not going to serve anyone else,” he said harshly.

The discomfort grew when a security agent joined the official, who tried to dispatch them in a bad way. “Outside the man’s list, everyone who is not included there, please have to leave the area, you cannot loiter around here and the embassy’s decision is irrevocable,” he told the crowd, making it worse. “Everybody sleep and rest, I’m very sorry but nothing is going to be done,” he insisted.

Faced with the agent’s attempt to get them off the street as well, one of the men who were waiting rebelled: “If in the end they won’t attend to me, I’m going to stay because I haven’t bothered anyone and they can’t prevent me.”

The agent looked surprised at the man, who repeated firmly: “You are violating our rights; we can’t be inside the embassy, ​​but we can be outside here, no one can tell me that I can’t be here. I’m leaving today, but the day before my trip I am going to stand here.”

The discussion repeated the scene from the day before, when, a witness told 14ymedio, the police evacuated the place after a nervous breakdown by a lady who is traveling soon.

What happened in front of the Colombian embassy is not the only sign that, now more than ever, the exodus is unstoppable. The main destination is, of course, the United States, and the springboard is Nicaragua, which  last November established a “free visa” for Cubans.

The stories multiply throughout the country. In the capital, Rosa María has already sold her house and other properties and only kept a few clothes. While waiting for her flight to Managua, scheduled for next month, she is staying at a sister’s house. Her plan is, together with her children, to reunite with her husband, who is already in the United States.

In Sancti Spíritus, on an entire street in the San Luis residential area, almost all the young people have sold their motorcycles and their belongings to leave the Island.

“Never before have I known so many people leaving, not even during the Rafter Crisis,” said a resident of El Vedado when, on Tuesday, she saw the line with hundreds of people waiting to enter the Immigration and Aliens offices on Calle 17, between J and K, which issues passports.

“I’m tired of living here, I need to leave because there is no future in this country, and in order to have something you have to live with a rope around your neck all the time,” Alejandro, a 40-year-old Cuban who is waiting to get a passport for the first time, told this newspaper.

In his case, his journey north will be a little more convoluted. According to him, he wants to use his savings to travel to Russia to buy articles to bring back and sell in Cuba. If everything goes well, and with the money he collects, he plans to leave for good. “What I want is to go to the United States, via Nicaragua, but I need more money to achieve it,” Alejandro asserts.

Tickets to Managua have been selling for prices ranging from $1,500 to more than $3,000.

José, who is also waiting in line for his passport, lives in Sancti Spíritus, and reports that he has sold his house and a car to leave with his family, including children. “This decision has not been easy to take, but it has been necessary,” he argues. “Here I go out with 2,000 pesos to the street and return with practically nothing for my children.” He does it for them, he says, because “the years go by and nothing changes, we are getting worse and worse.”

Others, like Kenia, instead of going to the US, will head for Europe. A Spanish citizen and with a brother living in France, this will be her final destination. Until now, she has had to pay for two extensions of her passport for a value of 500 pesos each.

“We gave my uncle a power of attorney to take care of my husband’s house for at least two years, in case something goes wrong and we decide to return,” she explains, crossing her fingers. “In Paris we have the possibility of working thanks to friends of my brother. He will pay for the tickets and then we will repay the loan.” And she confides: “I hope we can get ahead there, because there is no one who can stand this.”

A block further from that place, on the corner of 17th and J Street, there is a similar tumult among the crowd in front of the La Rampa University Polyclinic, where PCR tests are carried out for Cubans who intend to travel abroad, to prove that they are not infected with covid-19.

Without mentioning the long lines at the doors of the polyclinics, the Havana authorities determined that as of this Wednesday the PCR tests and the antigen tests for “people who will temporarily or permanently leave the country” will be carried out in the municipality of residence of the interested party. To do this, Tribuna de La Habana reports, they will need to present their identity card, travel ticket and passport.

Between 8:00 am and 1:00 pm they will take the samples, and will deliver the results between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm.

Cubans who do not live in Havana but are in the capital waiting for their departure through the José Martí airport, says the official note, will be tested “according to the municipality where they are residing before their departure abroad.”


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