The ‘Regulated’ and the Banished: The Great Absentees from the Cuban Government’s Meeting with Emigrants

The objective of the regime is clear: to convince those it once called “scum” and “worms” to put their hands in their pocket and invest in Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 16 November 2023 — Ten years have passed since the immigration reform came into effect, which abolished the unpresentable exit permit that Cubans needed to travel outside our country. However, the rights to free movement have not been fully restored and measures such as “regulation*” and forced exile have allowed the regime to use the prohibition of entering or leaving the country as a mechanism of political control and penalization against critics.

This weekend, at Havana’s Palace of Conventions, the Conference on the Nation and Migration will be in session. The event has not been held for 19 years, and dozens of emigrants residing in various countries are invited but united by the same posture: the lack of criticism of the authoritarianism of the Cuban regime and silence in the face of human rights violations on the Island. The representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will feel comfortable in front of an audience that will applaud a lot and demand little.

Although official voices have stressed that there will be no taboo topics at the Conference, it is likely that there will be any mention of the injustice suffered by dozens of activists, opponents and independent journalists who are “regulated” and prevented from leaving Cuba in retaliation for having exercised their right to dissent and free expression. Nor will the names be mentioned of those who, during a trip abroad, have encountered the enormous punishment of being prevented from boarding a plane back to their homeland, even though they had not been away more than the regulatory 24 months that current legislation establishes as a limit before losing residency on the Island.

Neither the regulated nor the exiled will have representation at the meeting and, almost certainly, none of the guests will dare to allude to their cases.

Neither the regulated nor the exiled will have representation at the meeting and, almost certainly, none of the guests will dare to allude to their cases and demand that such sanctions be put an end to. So, if two of the biggest violations of immigration rights that are committed on this Island are not going to be discussed and eliminated during the days of the Conference, what is the purpose of such a meeting?

The objective of officialdom is more than clear. Convince those it once called “escorias” [scum] and “gusanos” [worms] to reach into their pockets and invest in Cuba. To coax their money out of them, they will tell them that  changes in immigration policy are coming, that one day, even, the word “emigrant” will no longer be used to define compatriots who live scattered around the world, and they will enumerate all the supposed steps towards flexibility that have been taken in recent years to cross, in one direction or another, national borders.

Once the Conference is over, the Foreign Ministry will put aside its smiles and will return to talking about “the haters” and “the frustrated”, it will focus its attacks on that country that thousands of Cubans have chosen to live in, and of which so many already have citizenship, and will reinforce its speech in the plaza sitiada — the besieged square — in which dissent is treason. At home, dozens of Cubans will continue to postpone hugging their siblings, their children, their mothers, because an absurd system prevents them from boarding a plane to reach them.

*Translator’s note: The Cuban Government has chosen the term ‘regulated’ to refer to those who are forbidden to leave the Island.

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