Luis Rondon Paz
HAVANA TIMES — There are things I really don’t understand about the US government. They claim the “Castro regime” has indoctrinated the Cuban people, that the most fundamental human rights are constantly being trampled and so on and so forth.
When it comes to immigration and tightening the screws in this connection, however, it seems to me they take the cake. When they deny someone in a delicate state of health a visa, for instance, alleging that there is a strong risk that person will become an illegal immigrant, it leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.
A year ago, my sister booked an appointment for my mother at the US Interests Section in Havana. The interview was scheduled for February 24, 2014 at 8 in the morning.
Everything had already been planned. My sister was very excited about the prospect of having her mother visit her. “This time around, they’ll say yes,” she thought. “I’ll be able to give her the comforts she can’t have in Cuba: a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, vitamins and cutting-edge medication, etc.”
When I read the letters my sister wrote, this excitement took hold of me also. “It would be marvelous – she will recover more quickly,” I thought. Unfortunately, I am barely able to buy basic things with what I earn. It’s difficult to get my hands on a variety of quality fruits and vegetables that I can afford.
Incidentally, the new regulations implemented in Cuba have not lowered prices but raised them – at least, this is what I see in the “parallel” market.
We put together everything the day before: the 160 Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) for the interview, the wheelchair and a bit of extra cash to pay for the cab from the outlying town of Santiago de Las Vegas to the US Interests Section located in Vedado, Havana.
We arrived there at around 7 in the morning. They were already calling the people in line who had appointments for 8 in the morning. The long line of people waiting outside the nearby Calzada and K St. funeral parlor could be seen in the distance. “So many people want to leave,” I said to myself.
“Luisito, ask that gentleman over there if they’ve already called in the people with appointments for 8,” the man who had driven us there said bluntly, pointing to a man dressed in white and blue, standing at one of busiest spots there.
The man was holding a considerable number of IDs. It was obvious he worked at the Interests Section. That is what I thought as I approached him.
The man was so busy organizing the IDs that he completely ignored me. I thought of protesting, but I decided not to a few seconds later. I crossed the street towards the park in front of the funeral parlor to ask the other officer the same question.
This man was a bit kinder and told us to wait at the park corner, so as to go in at 8. I explained that my mother was in a delicate state of health and couldn’t be made to wait in line so long. He understood and, five minutes later, we were already at the entrance to the Interests Section, waiting to go in and have the blessed interview.
I didn’t like the place. I felt a kind of uneasiness, a strange misgiving about it, I don’t know.
At the entrance, however, they treated us wonderfully: kindly and courteously. They even prioritized my mother, because of her condition.
Everything was fine up to that point, until the official at booth number 5 asked several questions and said:
“I’m very sorry, but you don’t qualify for this type of visa.”
That was the second time the US Interests Section denied my mother a visa to travel to the United States. My mother could only say: “I’m going to die before I get a chance to see my daughter.” The words broke my heart, but I couldn’t let them see my anger. So I placed my hands on the wheelchair and pushed my mother out of that hell.