Grounded for 700 Days for Practicing Freedom of Speech

By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez

Being grounded for 700 days.

HAVANA TIMES – On October 10th, while Parliament and its Communist Party lawmakers met in a special session to elect or appoint the president and vice-president of the country, with the new nomenclature promulgated in the renewed Constitution, I was marking 700 days of being “regulated” (grounded).

This means 700 days without the freedom to travel abroad. 700 days during which a basic human right of mine has been violated, a right that I was allegedly born with, but the Cuban State tramples all over it as it pleases.

I had gone to MININT’s Identity Card office the day before, to inquire as to whether I was still being “regulated”. I do so from time to time. And indeed, I am, I am still banned from traveling and even renewing my passport, which was two years old last June, so I’ve had an expired passport for a year and three months. “Regulated for public interest,” the official told me.

Why am I being restricted from travel?

The Cuban State, via its Political Police which goes by the euphemism “State Security”, is punishing me, harassing me, as if they were mafiosos and I was somebody who doesn’t want to obey them when they give an order. They do it because they can, to intimidate, not because they have Justice on their side. I’m not a terrorist or a criminal, on the contrary, I’ve never fired a gun in my life, not even for fun or during my compulsory Military Service, luckily, I haven’t; I would never threaten anyone.

I’m a law-abiding, peaceful man, who believes in dialogue, in words, in the power of the truth and reason. This is who I am. I would never use offensive adjectives to describe my ideological or political adversaries. I try to be respectful without giving up standing up and being loyal to my beliefs in a democratic Cuba, “with every Cuban and for every Cuban’s wellbeing”.

Even so, my words bother them. My ideas bother them. My example also bothers them. They don’t want neighbors or my circle of friends (which grows by the day), to realize that they can think differently and be an active agent of change, without suffering something negative as a result. This is why they’ve banned me from traveling, for nearly two years now. This is why they have taken quite hefty repressive actions against me, under the threat of sending me to jail for being a “mercenary”, they tell me.

Just imagine the cheek! I defend my democratic socialist ideas, which I came to on my own studying human history and philosophy. How can somebody be a mercenary if they are defending their own ideas?

Everything began that fateful day when a group of MININT cars showed up at my house with a dozen officers and a camera in hand, filming everything, taking whatever they wanted from my home: the computer, phone, hard drives, DVDs, USBs, documents, etc. They did the same thing to a very close friend of mine at the same time, believing that his devices helped me to carry on writing, or that by taking everything away from me, I would be afraid to write.

Of course, I became afraid! This government can do whatever it wants to any one of us, let there be no doubt. It’s almighty, there is nothing that protects us apart from the power of reason and our ideas, and the ability to denounce these acts of harassment, which has grown substantially now with better Internet access.

This is why I am prohibited from leaving the country. They are restricting my freedom of movement as if I were a dangerous terrorist, a criminal that has been tried in court or a former government official with classified information, like “ambassador of indignity”, Bruno Rodriguez, shamelessly justified it in a recent interview, talking about those of us who are grounded.

But no, I am just a man who speaks his mind and practices freedom of expression. This is, without a doubt, a terrible crime in the Cuban government’s eyes, which is afraid of freedom and the decorum of simple men and women like me. However, we carry the decorum of millions on our backs, those afraid of the heavy hand of repression.

Osmel Ramirez

I'm from Mayari, a little village in Holguín. I was born on the same day that the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. A good omen, since I identify myself as a pacifist. I am a biologist but I am passionate about politics, history and political philosophy. Writing about these topics, I got to journalism, precisely here on Havana Times. I consider myself a democratic socialist and my main motivation is to try to be useful to the positive change that Cuba needs.