The Reason for Your Trip Doesn’t Matter, the Problem is Who You Are

“We will not allow any counterrevoltionary to go to Santiago de Cuba,” they told the reporter and religious activist. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ricardo Fernández, Camagüey, February 21, 2020 — You pack your bags, full of plans and dreams, but you discover with anger that freedom of movement in Cuba is conditioned on the way in which you think and speak. It doesn’t matter how many times it happens or where you were going, it is always frustrating when the authorities arbitrarily tell you that you cannot travel.

On February 17, a captain of the Department of State Security (DSE) informed me that, again, I couldn’t travel. This time I wasn’t at José Martí International Airport, nor was I heading abroad. I had been invited to the church of pastor Alaín Toledano Valiente, in Santiago de Cuba. It was a purely religious event, but the reason of your trip doesn’t matter, the problem is who you are, or that’s what the DSE official whose pseudonym I can’t even remember said.

“We will not allow any counterrevolutionary to go to Santiago de Cuba,” he said emphatically before ordering two police agents to put me in patrol car number 424 which brought me to the Third Police Unit of Montecarlo in Camaguey. There they searched my belongings for filming equipment that could have betrayed that the purpose of my visit was journalistic. They found nothing, but the sentence against me didn’t change.

Being someone who thinks and acts according to his ideas, whenever they don’t agree with their own, it seems, they deprive us of all the rights that citizenship and the Constitution grant us. It is not the first time that they arbitrarily spoiled my plans. Nor is it the first time that they left me with no explanation about what happened. Once again I had to make conjectures, look for some logical reason that would abate the ire I was feeling.

Putting two and two together, it occurred to me that it is possible that the Government is trying to control the situation in the city, where a few days ago a group of residents confronted the Police, who were trying to prevent the lynching of an alleged rapist of an eight-year-old girl. The obvious question is: What do I have to do with what happened in Santiago? Am I a real risk in face of a possible social explosion, despite being openly pacifist?

Speaking about the Cuban reality without sugarcoating has put me on the same level as terrorists and drug traffickers, which is how I was treated by the State Security captain during the two and a half hours that my detention lasted. So that it would be on the record, the agent wrote an “official warning” that of course I refused to sign. The text says: “If he is detected in the Eastern provinces he will have committed a crime of disobedience.” And adds: “That is three years in prison.” Three years in prison for trying to visit the church of a friend in my own country.

As I was leaving the police station the same official passed by me on the typical Suzuki motorcycle and, as if I were an old friend, said to me: “If you want I can take you, public transportation is bad.” “Are you going to Santiago?” I responded in the same ironic tone.

Apparently he didn’t like my response, because he accelerated and disappeared in the distance while I was calling my wife, who thought I was on my way to Santiago, to tell her that the trip had been short…and in a patrol car.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.