Are We Serving as an Example?

Veronica Fernandez

Havana's Jose Marti International Airport. Photo: Caridad

Over the last few years, I’ve heard many complaints from Cubans who frequently travel abroad. Upon returning to their homeland, at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, they always run into new regulations, difficulties and various restrictions.

Those who have commented to me concerning this situation tell me they always have to be on the lookout for something new when they return to Cuban soil.

It turns out that the latest measure is that Cuban citizens who reside abroad now have to pay a medical insurance tax of 5 CUCs ($6.25 USD) per day for every day of their stay in Cuba.

Just like all these people, I don’t think this is a good measure, because why was this resolution promulgated after 50 years of revolution?

I know and understand that we’re in a period of transformation and change for the improvement of the economy, but that doesn’t mean we have to be inflexible and “force people up against the wall” (as we here in Cuba say).

Many of these people who, for one reason or another, have permits for residency abroad haven’t abandoned their citizenship.  They love Cuba; they defend it from wherever they are and struggle for it despite being exposed to umpteen difficult situations that we often don’t even know about.

So, why create tensions between ourselves?  As I said on another occasion, we sometimes take measures that benefit only a certain sector of the population and don’t care about the other ones.

I know a person who told me that her money that had to be left in the airport for insurance could have gone to her family to help them out economically.  She also commented that if this is how it’s going to be, then what they’ll be doing is driving people away from extending their stays in Cuba.

We’re always talking about how important the family is in the human process and the importance of family reunification, but don’t they realize this new measure can do more harm than good?

Then, besides the many other Cuban customs restrictions inside the airport, when people come out to be welcomed by their family and friends, I’ve noticed through my own experience that the conditions you’d expect are far from desirable.

Where families and friends are made to wait, the amount of dirt is astonishing, frightful even.  I’ve even seen roaches crawling around; unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me, but I have people who can verify this fact.

How can it be explained that in this same place they charge people who enter the country for medical insurance the authorities allow unhealthy conditions to exit.  Are we serving as examples?

How can this be explained when we proclaim are health system among the world’s vanguard?  How can it be explained that so much was expended in combating the A(H1NI) virus if the first thing a tourist sees when landing in Cuba is so hygienically disastrous?

This has to be seen to be believed – and I saw it.  There were many surgical masks worn by the customs officials at the airport to prevent the spread of the influenza, as well as a massive media campaign. Yet after colliding with this total lack of hygiene in that same airport, I wonder:  What are we doing?  Are we discrediting ourselves before the international public?  Is this how we’re setting an example?  Do we have the moral courage to demand better?  Are they looking for solutions or problems?

Veronica Fernadez

Veronica Fernandez: I was born in the town of Regla, on the other side of Havana Bay. Over the years, many people from Regla have gone to live in Cojimar, fleeing the contamination from the petroleum refinery in Regla. That's what my family did when I was just four years old. Since I was a little girl I have been drawn to the arts and letters. Poetry and narrative writing are my favorites. I had the good fortune to study philology, a branch of the human sciences dealing with language and literature, at the University of Havana with top notch professors. As a Capricorn, I adore organization, people who are mature, the romantic things in life and the lack of self-interest that is the backbone of these times. I enjoy our typical Cuban food, (white rice, black beans, pork and yucca with garlic sauce) and also Italian food. I also like chocolate and drinking a mojito (rum cocktail) in the historic center of my city.