14ymedio, Madrid, 21 April 2023 — Glenda Corella Céspedes arrived in Canada in 2012, when the Cuban government agreed to her request to leave the country after eight years of waiting. Her life in Toronto went smoothly until March 7. She decided to return to the Island to attend her brother’s wedding and was met with the refusal of the immigration authorities, who prevented her from getting off the plane that landed at the Frank País de Holguín airport around 9 pm. The reason? Her empathy with the 11 July 2021 (11J) protesters, which led her to register her criticism of the regime on social networks.
The story is told by the protagonist herself to the Canadian public media CBC News. Corella Céspedes, who was traveling with a friend, Mary Guaragna, was carrying in her suitcase medicines for her mother — a lung cancer patient — and a friend, in addition to the clothes for her brother’s wedding and the happiness of seeing him again. Her Cuban passport was in order; she is obliged, despite being a Canadian citizen, to use it to enter the Island.
“Five Cuban immigration officers got on the plane and said that everyone could get off except Glenda Corella Céspedes,” she tells the network. “At that moment,” Guaragna adds, “we looked at each other with a lot of concern. I was as white as a ghost, and Glenda more than me. The Canadians who left the plane looked at us as if we were terrorists. We felt horrible,” she recalls.
One of the officers, according to the story of the two women, left with Corella Céspedes’ passport and, after about 20 minutes, another soldier, apparently of higher rank, got on board and gave the Cuban-Canadian a document which said “Denied” without further explanation.
Guaragna explains that she spoke with the agent to try to understand the situation and attributes to her Canadian mentality her naivety in believing that an understanding could be reached. “What seems to be the problem?” She asked the officer, who answered only: “She knows what she did, she knows what she did.” “At that moment I looked at Glenda, who gave me a signal not to say anything else.”
Corella Céspedes attributes her problems to a simple “like” on Facebook. At the beginning of the year, Prime Minister Manuel Marrero visited the Gibara hospital, in Holguín, where she had worked as a nurse years ago. A doctor from the center — apparently well connected with the Communist Party — posted on her networks a video of the musical performance with which they received the president and several Facebook users criticized the gesture, saying that they should have criticized the leader for the health situation on the Island, instead of entertaining him.
Corella Céspedes marked one of those comments with a “like” and that’s where it all began. Her parents began to receive warnings from members of the local PCC, who recommended that they ask their daughter to stop posting and commenting.
After her entry into Cuba was denied, she herself began to receive messages from a person identified as José Manuel Santos who told her: “Follow my advice. You have your parents here and you have nephews, nieces and cousins. Don’t put anything else on your (Facebook) wall,” he sent her on WhatsApp on March 29.
“Your ban is for two years, but if you keep sharing things on your wall, they will change it for your whole life. You have your mom here.”
CBC News tried without success to contact the Cuban embassy in Canada, which has been closed since February, and the Ministry of the Interior of the Island did not answer their calls either. The media spoke with U.S. resident Cuban lawyer Laritza Diversent, who spoke to them about how the regime uses immigration “regulations” as a control mechanism for critics.
“Cubans who have deserted while they were on missions abroad and rafters have been the subject of this measure in the past,” she said, adding that since the 11J demonstrations — which generated a great wave of solidarity activism on social networks — it applies to those who use cyberspace to disagree.
“Just for shouting for freedom, for shouting we want to eat, completely defenseless people who did not have a stick or a stone to defend themselves were attacked by the police and by a minority that serves the Government to oppress the people,” Diversent said. The lawyer explained to the Canadian channel that Resolution 105 of the Ministry of Communications of Cuba considers any criticism of an official as a cyberattack.
“They have unlimited discretion, there is no judicial supervision,” she added. “If you are denied entry, there is no way to make a claim in court, and in no way can the family in Cuba initiate proceedings to go against that decision.” Diversent has not returned to the Island for five years precisely for the same reason and says that State Security has not stopped pressuring her mother, visiting her on several occasions, to convince her daughter to change her position.
“The exile who begins to criticize is aware that if he does, he will not be able to return, and that is the cost. How then will you be able to bring medicines to your family? It’s a real dilemma, especially since it’s as if they had your family hostage,” she says. And all in the midst of a huge crisis in which the Island wants tourists — with Canadians as the main market — and émigrés to refill the state coffers with foreign currency.
The Government’s attitude, despite everything, is not always successful, and, in the case of Glenda Corella Céspedes, she has multiplied her activism. Now she proclaims her intention not to try to go to Cuba again as long as there is no democracy. “I’m sorry for my mother. I’m sorry for my father, for my sister, for my brother, for my cousin, friends, everyone. But it’s not possible for me to return.”
Translated by Regina Anavy
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