Neither a Right Nor a Privilege

Veronica Vega

Ilustration by Yasser Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES — I would like to thank the readers who commented on my previous post, and clarify a number of points that may remain confusing, as I limited myself to narrating facts and expressing feelings that do not constitute a definitive verdict.

I understand that every state has the right to decide who enters its country, but it is also unquestionable that those who attempt to visit the United States through an invitation from relatives, wish to move there definitively, seek to secure a parole visa or intend to visit the country for cultural or work-related reasons deserve respectful treatment.

I don’t understand why applicants are made to wait, en masse, at the “interview hall,” and forced to remain in this overcrowded space (where they can’t even shift positions), when they could easily wait outside, on the same ramp where the line of people begins, and be allowed inside in small groups, in dependence of the number of officials available to process their applications. I don’t understand why the “interview”, which sometimes takes on the form of an interrogation, should be overheard by all applicants present, particularly when it touches on details that are quite simply personal.

I find it even more difficult to understand that one should be required to pay an application fee prior to being granted a visa, and I wonder whether one is simply paying to be interviewed by an official. I wonder, also, how many embassies around the world reserve the right to charge 160 dollars simply to evaluate whether to grant a traveler’s visa, a visitor’s permit, to a foreign citizen.

We should add that Cuban applicants depend on the relative inviting them to the US for this sum, and just how much this money represents for the average Cuban.

There’s also no excuse for the US Embassy in Havana to offer relatives extending these invitations false information. My stepmother, who is a lawyer, read up on the procedure thoroughly before making the application. She paid a courier service to have the official letter of invitation, a bank statement and even the direct and signed letter of recommendation from a congress person, reach me in time, only because, over the phone, they told her they only accept original (not scanned) documents, and that the official who would review my case would validate the information submitted by me.

Now, allow me to disagree with the reader who claims “a visa is not a right but a privilege.” Polarizing any aspect of reality only distances us from a thorough understanding of phenomena. From that perspective, those individuals around the world whose citizenship exempts them from having to secure a visa are more dignified than those of us whose live in countries whose economic situation turns us into potential immigrants, whether we like it or not.

Under such terms, the citizen of a First World country has the right to enter Cuba, while a Cuban, if granted a visa by that person’s country, ought to consider themselves privileged. These arguments serve only to exacerbate class differences, discrimination and xenophobia. And, if prosperity is to be used as the yardstick for these differences, we must also add that developed countries became rich colonizing and pillaging countries that are today part of the Third World.

In my opinion, a visa is neither a right nor a privilege, but a requirement imposed on us by specific circumstances, with specific ends that I do not even wish to question. But every person can and ought to feel honorable, and the embassy of any country can and ought to treat all natives and foreign citizens with respect.

4 thoughts on “Neither a Right Nor a Privilege

  • According to Wikipedia “you” are not “the most welcomed country in the world.” You are behind Finland and Sweden in this respect:
    As always citizens of developing countries are disadvantaged, which has almost nothing to do with their foreign policy of their governments. Why do you pretend that Cuba’s foreign policy is to blame in this case?
    The irony is that Cubans can thank what you usually refer to as the Castros for the preferential treatment offered to them by the USA and not to citizens of other Latin American countries.

  • “Generally able to travel” implies there are exceptions. More specifically, Americans can travel to more than 169 countries without a pre-approved visa. By this measure, we are the most welcomed country in the world. Even VENEZUELA doesn’t require US travelers obtain a visa. Cubans may travel to only TWO countries visa-free. Even Chavez in Venezuela did not trust Cubans to visit without a pre-approved visa.

  • Actually, there are a lot of exceptions to Moses Patterson’s claim that US citizens “are generally able to travel all over the world WITHOUT a visa.” That maybe true as long as we are talking about NATO or other countries allied with the USA. However, apparently not only Cubans, but also norte americanos “still need visas to travel to Venezuela,” for instance:
    It is true when Veronica Vega writes that “developed countries became rich colonizing and pillaging countries that are today part of the Third World.” However, you cannot stress enough that the wealth of countries is very different from the wealth of its citizens. Americans, for instance, may, at least in principle, be able to travel to many countries without a visa, but you should keep in mind that many, maybe even most, Americans will never actually go anywhere because they cannot afford the price of airplane tickets and hotel accommodation since this is a privilege extended almost exclusively to the rich. The lack of money renders the question of visa-free countries moot.
    That the underprivileged of wealthy nations resort to patriotism or even outright racism when waves of immigrants try to gain entrance to their countries is due to this tragic fact of the globalized market economy: They see the new arrivals mainly as competition – for the same measly jobs catering to the needs of the privileged classes – and they are therefore unable to see what they have in common with the underprivileged of the world, and what is worse: what they don’t have in common with their wealthy compatriots.

  • Americans are generally able to travel all over the world WITHOUT a visa. This is a PRIVILEGE extended to America’s as a result of our foreign policy. Cubans, on the other hand, require a visa to travel nearly everywhere in the world. The lack of privilege is also a result of Cubans foreign policy. For all the blather about solidarity between Venezuela and Cuba, Cubans still need vísas to travel to Venezuela and I, although one of those horrible, imperialists, Americans, can buy a ticket and get on the plane. Veronica is wrong. Travel to another country is a privilege, not a right.

Comments are closed.