Cuban Gov. Continues to Arbitrarily Ground Those who Oppose its Policies

Lynn Cruz

Photo: Oscar Casanella

HAVANA TIMES – Yesterday afternoon, at the ID Office located on 17th Street, between J and K streets in the Plaza de la Revolucion municipality, Oscar Casanella, a biochemist who was expelled from the National Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology (INOR), was informed that he was listed under the anomalous status of: “Regulated”, when he tried to extend his passport.

When Casanella asked why, the public servant dealing with his request answered: “If you are regulated, it’s because you owe something to the justice system.” After Casanella explained his situation to her, the public servant suggested he go to the State Council’s Citizen Assistance Office or to a police station to find out why this measure had been applied to him.

That’s to say, he will only have a right to find out why this has happened. He doesn’t have a right to complain, at least that was what the public servant led him to suspect. Nevertheless, Casanella will go to the places she recommended so as to get an answer.

This means that he doesn’t have government authorization to leave the country. The Cuban government is using a new method of torture. This punishment is meant for people who have impeccable civil behavior but have no qualms about openly criticizing the injustices we suffer in Cuba today.

Casanella began to suffer political persecution as a result of his close friendship with Ciro Javier Diaz Penedo, a member of punk rock band Porno para Ricardo.

They slowly cornered him to the extent that State Security paid him a visit at his home to warn him that he couldn’t hold a welcome party for his friend Ciro who was traveling to Havana from Brazil. They warned him that if he did, there would be consequences.

The result? He was removed from his job as a researcher at INOR’s Preclinical Research Department. They made it impossible for him to continue as an Immunology professor at Havana University’s Biology Department, where he had been teaching classes for free for ten years.

They crushed his civic, social and professional life on the island because of his way of thinking and his friendships. Later, he began to work for himself as a tour guide and he managed to register his small business in the Dominican Republic.

Casanella had been thinking about traveling there this time. In recent months, he was also very active during the successful campaign for the release of scientist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, who was unfairly sentenced to a year in prison.

After Cubans protested, both on the island and abroad, as well as Amnesty International’s intervention (who declared Ariel a prisoner of conscience), he was released under the anomalous status: “conditional release”.

Casanella was very active during this campaign because they were not only colleagues, but very dear friends. Ariel’s release from prison really bothered the authorities and at that time, they summoned Casanella to harrass him and to warn him to keep away from Ariel.

Today, reprisals continue, and he is being forced to put his personal plans of continuing with his company behind him. The government has used this measure against activists, who have been punished with not being allowed to leave the country for a year and then when they are free to do so, they can’t return to the island.

The same thing has happened to Ariel, who is supposed to be in Germany right now, but this alleged license doesn’t allow him to go abroad. This is another way to “regulate him”, “bring him into alignment”, “discipline him”. This is how disproportionate our struggle for basic rights is against the Cuban government.

Lynn Cruz

It's not art that imitates life, its life that imitates art," said Oscar Wilde. And art always goes a step further. I am an actress and writer. For me, art, especially writing, is a way of exorcising demons. It is something intimate. However, I decided to write journalism because I realized that I did not exist. In Cuba, only the people authorized by the government have the right to express themselves publicly. Havana Times is an example of coexistence within a democracy and since I consider myself a democrat, my dream is to integrate this publication’s philosophy into the reality of my country.