Times of Quarantine

Diary of a gay Cuban who emigrated

By Luis Rondon Paz

News conference of Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau

HAVANA TIMES – Two months before the situation of the Coronavirus became critical here in Montreal, I was hit with a virus that left me with my defenses low and a very shaky state of health. Because of that, I was obliged to go into quarantine early. Unfortunately, today nearly the whole country is in a state of emergency. Practically the entire island of Montreal is in quarantine.

I know that the Canadian provincial and federal governments are taking the necessary measures to overcome the crisis that the country finds itself in. 

Many people have been left without work, and there’s fear that many of those who currently don’t have a stable source of income, including myself, could end up on the street as they find themselves in the painful situation of choosing between going hungry or having a roof over their heads so they can sleep or feed themselves well. They then run the risk of becoming infected with the Coronavirus, because they ended up in an extremely vulnerable situation.

On a social level, according to what I’ve seen on the news and the infrequent days when I’ve been able to go out to buy food, most people are behaving in a civilized manner.  You can tell that many have followed the orientations that the government has issued through the media: to go out only for emergencies, or to look for essential food.  Those who’ve returned from outside the country must obligatorily stay at home in order to avoid infecting others, since they run a high risk of carrying the virus.

Gay Village of Montreal with the streets closed because of Covid-19.

Thanks to the internet, many people have begun to use their time in different activities like doing Yoga, playing online games, or just sharing on Instagram whatever they find themselves doing at home.

I believe it’s important to emphasize the fundamental role of telecommunications, especially the social networks, which have become not only an arm for creating panic, but also a very useful tool for keeping people together in this very difficult moment that’s being lived all over the world.

To calm tensions a little, in the last weeks Canada’s Prime Minister and the provincial leader of Quebec have been announcing a number of packets of financial assistance. According to the Federal and Provincial Governments, the aid will begin to arrive around the first or second week of April.  It will benefit self-employed workers and those who were left unemployed as a result of Covid-19.

They’re also going to offer more resources to social centers and shelters for the homeless.  There’ll be still more assistance package announced later, according to the health situation in the country.  I have hopes that all of us that live here will be protected during this crisis period, so that when the pandemic ends, we can continue in a normal way – alive, safe, and in freedom with our lives.

For the short run, I’ll continue being isolated in my house, following the news closely and with a positive mindset that this urgent health situation will end soon.

Luis Rondón

Luis Rondon Paz: Activist, Queer, computer scientist, actor, photographer, student and apprentice journalist. Originally from Santiago de Cuba. I believe that people are life projects in constant transformation. I am consistent and responsible for my actions, committed to just causes and a lover of good deeds. Today I write about Cuba in exile, free of psychological torture and persecution of the Cuban dictatorship.



8 thoughts on “Times of Quarantine

  • A question for Luis Rondon Paz.
    As I recall it Luis, you received a TRV to visit Canada to attend a meeting and give a talk. At that time, I wrote of the problems of obtaining a TRV for my wife and being turned down five times, prior to the UK issuing her a TRV following which Canada was similarly obliged. But, my step-daughter has similarly had applications rejected five times. How did you obtain residency?

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  • Luis, please respond!

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  • Donde esta Luis?

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  • I really sorry that you were rejected so many times, I know its almost impossible to get a visa from Cuba. i think I was lucky. But, I think my passport Visas from trips I did before (Prague, South America and US) helped me a lot, the first time I traveled to Canada was as Human Rights Activist for the LGBTQ+ community and Independent Journalist Invited to do special press coverage of the first Canadian Gay pride in Montreal.

    You can check out one of my works in the following link.
    https://havanatimes.org/diaries/luis-rondons-diary/getting-an-insiders-view-of-canadas-gay-pride-video/

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  • Yes Luis I recall your article and you may recall that I responded. I not your comment about having obtained TRV visas from other countries being a possible reason for you receiving the one for Canada. That gels with my wife being turned down five times, then receiving a TRV for the UK and subsequently the following year, one for Canada. Obviously the Canadian Embassy doesn’t feel equipped to take the initial decision itself. I have reason to believe that the staff at the embassy taking the decisions are actually employed Cubans. Does that agree with your experience?
    I still don’t know why Canada issued you with a permanent resident visa. I have a sneaking feeling it was because they are frightened of being criticized for being anti-gay and of journalistic freedom. But, enjoy being a Canadian – despite its faults it is a wonderful country.

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  • MacDuff You are asking for many Canadians, Why Can We Not Give our Cuban Loved Ones A Better Life. Stay at it, There are Many That Support You in this Search for Truth.

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  • In response to Caryle MacDuff about getting a Canadian Visa for a Cuban to visit Canada, I will relate my own experience at the Canadian Consulate in Havana. My friend was turned down twice for a Visa to visit me in Canada. In both applications I had given her all the information that was needed to get this Visa. I decided to go with her to the Canadian Embassy and try to speak to a Canadian in the Visa department. When we arrived at the Canadian Embassy . It was a gated with Cubans , the only thing that was Canadian was the name on the t shirt that they were wearing. I showed them my Canadian Passport and I said that I wanted to speak to a Canadian in the Visa Department. They told me that I could not enter the Embassy. I never gave up and they kept saying that I could not enter. I kept this up for an hour. Finely they handed me a phone and I got to speak to a Canadian woman inside the Embassy She said that she could not help me and that was the end of our conversation. I took out my Canadian Passport and I kept on asking them to let me speak to a Canadian in the Embassy. Finely there was a Canadian woman came out to speak to me. I believe she was the same woman that was on the phone. She was a very pleasant woman. I told her about my friend and her being turned down twice for a Canadian Visa . She said that there was no Canadians in the Visa department, they were all Cuban. She told me that there were no records kept if you were turned down for a Visa. This meant to me that the Visa Department was making enough in fees to pay all the Cuban employees in the Embassy. She told me that I could reapply if I wanted. I said that I would better off buying my friend food with the money. That is what I did. We went to a big grocery store and I spent the same money as what the Visa fees were.

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  • @Bernie and Robert Lehman
    My battle with the Havana Canadian Embassy and successive Canadian governments has gone on for over ten years. It started with applying for TRV’s (Temporary Resident Visa) for my wife and being rejected five times, before eventually applying to the British Embassy in Havana for a TRV to visit the UK. They unlike the Canadian Embassy, were courteous and helpful, giving her a TRV on the first application. So the following year the Canadian Embassy was obliged to issue her one – and her circumstances were exactly the same as they were when they turned he down in 2011. Also, I had told my MP friend that if she did not get a TRV I intended to hand my complete file to either the National Post or the Globe and Mail, with permission to publish any of the content and my name.
    I am reasonably well politically connected and was on first name terms with my M.P. during those initial years and he was an Under Secretary of State in the then Canadian Government. In pursuing my interests, he twice sent e-mails to the Embassy itself – and in reply they actually lied saying that there was no letter of permission from her employer – I provided a copy of that letter from the Cuban Minister of Education the following day to my MP.. But what I learned from him was that the Canadian Bureaucracy is a law unto itself and the politicians have little power.
    Six years ago we applied for a TRV for my step-daughter as a reward for graduating as a lawyer. That too was rejected – four times before the fifth application was stopped in mid-stream – the Embassy sent a her letter naming another (male) person, obviously reflecting their incompetence and forgetting confidentiality. My Step daughter returned it to them, only to be told that the Embassy was now no longer issuing TRVs, applications by Cubans had to be made to the Canadian Embassy in Mexico.
    In endeavoring to pursue the matter, I managed through my next MP (He was a Liberal who had succeeded my friend, to get a letter to the then Minister of Immigration and Citizenship – himself an immigrant from Ethiopia. Historically in Canada, Minister’s have usually replied through their Executive Assistants or others in their Ministry and occasionally even signed their responses. But I found to my astonishment that the Liberal government had instituted a new department to answer letters sent to Ministers and I received a response by e-mail from that department – which ended by saying that no reply was possible – and with no address.
    Since that time, Canada has had another election and the Liberal MP has been replaced by a Conservative – so I visited him before leaving for Cuba and leaving a letter for his use. In Cuba communication is difficult (we all know that), so I told him that I would visit him upon my return from Cuba – and of course cannot do so currently, being in isolation for the Covid 19. But, I shall as soon as is possible with my complete file – being long in the political tool, I am an inveterate filer.
    One of the disturbing factors is that Canada uses Cuban staff to deal with TRVs. We all know that Cubans have a built-in racism mentality and my wife and I are a mixed race couple. It is far easier to reject applications than to approve them – for there are no consequences and those Cuban staff can pop two blocks along the road to that cafe for lunch, without having to accept responsibility for making a positive decision.
    Have I had any satisfaction from my political connections related to Cuba? The answer is YES! Several months prior to the death of Fidel Castro, Rona Ambrose who was temporary Conservative Party Leader, asked me to sign a copy of my then recently published book ‘Cuba Lifting the Veil’ which she had obtained and I did so. As you may recall Justin Trudeau wrote a grovelling letter to Raul Castro upon behalf of “the people of Canada” when Fidel died. The Conservative Party having full information vigorously attacked him and eventually he had to admit publicly that “Fidel Castro was a dictator”.
    But true to form, the Communist Party of Cuba’s Propaganda Department has made political use of the Trudeau letter which included:
    “I know that my father was very proud to call him (Fidel) a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. it was also a real honour to meet his three sons (He actually fathered eight)) and his brother President Raul Castro during my recent visit to Cuba.”
    Liberal or latent?
    My interest in Luis’ contribution was how he managed to circumvent all the nonsense. My guess is that he belongs to a vocal minority group with international connections and the Government of Canada is always concerned about political correctness. Good luck to Luis and congratulations upon success.

    Reply

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