HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government has had no choice but to televise a migratory conflict involving its own citizens. This time around, we aren’t seeing Syrians fleeing from NATO bombings or Haitians taking to the sea in precarious rafts, nor Africans flocking to Europe’s borders in search of a better life.
No. Now, the government has had to acknowledge the existence of thousands of Cubans who decided to leave behind their relatives, friends and everything they know, risking their lives in a journey that doesn’t always have a happy ending. The adventure may begin and end with a plane, but between the two airports, uncertainty reigns supreme. These migrants must cross jungles, use any means of land or sea transportation and evade the border patrols of several countries. Of course, Cuban authorities aren’t saying any of this so directly, but, after so many years of (free?) access to education, people can draw their own conclusions.
The situation facing these Cubans who have decided to immigrate to the United States through Central America is painful and maddening. They are exposed to the mistreatment of the unscrupulous people who use them and the manipulation of Cuba’s “sister” nations.
This avalanche of confusion and anxiety, however, has also brought us something positive. The Cubans stranded on the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua carried signs showing their demands. They demanded a transit visa, to continue on their way towards the United States. It may seem like a trifle, after seeing so many similar news items around the world. But, as we know, even such a timid protest is something prohibited in Cuba.
When it was announced that, as of December 1, Cuban citizens wishing to travel to Ecuador would be required to apply for a visa, many headed to the Ecuadorian Embassy in Cuba with clear demands. Among other things, they said: “We have thousands of dollars at stake, give those of us who bought a ticket prior to this date a visa or give us back our money.”
Of course, we are dealing with personal interests: reaching the United States or not losing large sums of money. But I have to admit that seeing my compatriots demanding something other than “Elian Gonzalez’s return” or the release of the Cuban Five came as a positive surprise.
It is a small step in the long road ahead of us as citizens who awaken. If we continue down this path, we will soon lose our pasivity and, faced with a similar situation, begin to demand, holding signs at Revolution Square, that the government ensure the health and physical integrity of our citizens, no matter where they are, no matter what circumstances took them there.
Who knows, perhaps one day we will force them destine a field hospital – of the kind our government sends to the most inhospitable corners of the Earth – to see to our children, pregnant women and others who, driven against the wall by circumstance, anxiously await the decisions of the politicians.