“The Tentacles of Castroism Are Long” / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Efrain Sanchez Mateo refuses to abandon his countrymen, whom he calls brothers. (14ymedio)
Efrain Sanchez Mateo refuses to abandon his countrymen, whom he calls brothers. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 13 July 2016 — Desolate, but firm and willing to continue fighting for Cubans, whom he calls “my brothers.” Thus, Efrain Sanchez Mateo defines himself after serving a sentence of five days in jail for allegedly assaulting a police officer during the eviction of Cuban migrants camped at El Arbolito Park in Quito, Ecuador.

“That was something they were planning for a long time, but they didn’t have the courage to do it. The turning point was our protest outside the Cuban consulate in Quito,” explained Sanchez Mateo. The unprecedented march in which hundreds of migrants repudiated the statement from the embassy accusing them of trying to score points to get political asylum “frightened the regime,” added the Cuban.

“How long are we going to continue supporting the Association of Cuban Resident in Ecuador (ACURE)? How long will we continue supporting the lies of an embassy that doesn’t represent us?” he says in a reference to the accusation of the pro-Castro association that accuses them of receiving money from abroad and “serving the interests of Miami.”

“If this inhumane action and violation of human rights committed by the Ecuadorian government in collusion with Cuban State Security has made something clear, it is that nobody has sustained and supported us from the outside,” he argues.

Mateo, a coordinator of Cuban migrants, says the presence of the Mambi or “Freedom” encampment, as he called their tents in the Quito park, had authorization from the police and the Ministry of Social Inclusion and they have evidence to prove it.

“We had been promised they would not intervene. We had an organization and lived in solidarity with other Cuban brothers and many who are still there, having no place to sleep, went to work and carried on the cause,” he comments.

Ecuador’s Vice Minister of the Interior, Diego Fuentes, told the press that it wasn’t exclusively about the Cubans, but “of migratory control that affects all citizens and all nationalities.” The official also explained that these controls sustain “a regular and responsible migratory flow” that will avoid the “abuse” of Ecuador’s image of universal citizenship and open doors, something that Mateo agrees with.

“The night the camp was evacuated, the police followed the same modus operandi as they used the first time when they evacuated the migrants from the around the Mexican embassy,” he explained. “They came at midnight and about two in the morning a large group of police and anti-riot troops evacuated the place. However, this time they used migration control as a pretext, so it could not be called an eviction, but it’s clear that the motive was xenophobia against Cubans,” he says.

Caricature by Bonil, El Universo, 11 July.
Caricature by Bonil, El Universo, 11 July.

“We men try to protect the women. We are beaten and threatened. Cuban State Security agents in plainclothes in among the Ecuadorian police tried to catch me. Every day I receive threats toward me and my family, because they believe it will make me abandon my brothers. I regret what happened, but I will not do that, neither those in Cuba nor those here,” he says.

Efrain Sanchez Mateo regrets that the Cuban community abroad has not shown their support for respect for the rights of their compatriots in Ecuador. “We have been beaten, our rights have been violated, we are trying to escape communism and they have left us on our own,” he laments.

“I call on the internal opposition in Cuba and those who fight for their freedom from exile. Do not leave the 75 Cubans who were deported to the island on their own. Do not let them fall back into the clutches of the government,” says Mateo says he is in contact with several of those who have been repatriated and has urged them to continue what they started in Ecuador.

At 3:30 am on Wednesday morning, a judge responsible for procedural rights and guarantees rejected the habeas corpus petition for 47 of the 48 Cubans being held at the Hotel Carrion. Yesterday afternoon a group of Ecuadorian and Cuban protestors demonstrated their support for the migrants with protest actions in front of the court. On Monday morning, Ecuador completed the second transfer of Cubans to their country of origin, bringing the number of those repatriated to 75.

“The Cubans in Ecuador could not possibly show more courage. We did everything possible, but the tentacles of Castroism are long,” he adds.