By Ahmed Correa (in Quito, Ecuador)
HAVANA TIMES – Regarding the article published by Havana Times on the arrest of a group of Cubans in Ecuador, I would like to make several corrections.
At dawn on Tuesday, July 6, between 2:30 and 3:00 am, a police operation, with armored vehicles and anti-riot equipment, violently evicted the group of more than five hundred people located in the El Arbolito Park in Quito.
I wish to clarify that the group didn’t wander for days to reach the park from which they were evicted. The operation early Tuesday was the resolution of a similar process that occurred the night of June 26, when riot troops violently drove the Cubans from outside the Mexican Embassy. In this act they were stripped of their belongings: tents, blankets, documents and even passports. In the middle of the night, they found shelter in La Carolina Park to the north-center of the city. After several days in this place, sleeping outdoors, they received a permit from the Municipality of Quito, but had to relocate to the El Arbolito Park, near the city center.
With the municipal permit still valid, they were brutally evicted from the park. As a result, 147 people were arrested, including four children, two pregnant, and many elderly persons. A teenager received an injury to one of his arms during the military incursion.
It is not true that all the migrants came to Ecuador illegally. In the group at El Arbolito, there were people with valid visas, having lived in the country more than five years. People who, under the current context of economic crisis in Ecuador, decided to reorient their migration projects, after suffering ample experiences of rejection and discrimination. Furthermore, it is important to note that Article 40 of the Ecuadorian Constitution states that “no human being will be identified as illegal because of their immigration status.”
Nor is it true that the Cubans damaged the property of the city or threatened the security of the inhabitants. Numerous Ecuadorians and Cubans contributed with donations of food or blankets for the group of Cubans. And the municipal permit to reside in the park was in force and with the possibility of extension.
It should be noted that both the Criminal Code and the current Constitution clearly detail the cases in which prison as a preventive measure can be used. Nowhere is this is applicable as a precautionary measure for the poorly-named irregular migration, which obviously is not a crime.
In addition, No. 14 of Article 66 of the Constitution explicitly states that “the collective expulsion of foreigner’s prohibited. Immigration cases must be handled individually.” Therefore the manifest intention of the Minister of Interior, is clearly unconstitutional.
Added to this violation is the fact that the detainees were transferred to a flagrant crime unit, which seeks to resolve crimes in a summary manner. Given that immigration problems do not constitute a crime, the authorities of the Ministry of Interior in charge of this process, have violated all the basic rules of due process.
The position of the Cuban authorities is equally reprehensible. We may not share the political discourse of people who were at El Arbolito. We may even recognize the cynical humanism of the Cuban Adjustment Act. But the complicit silence of the Cuban authorities, merely ratifies the limits of the island’s immigration reform of 2013, which continues to exclude migrants from their ideal nation.
It is also regrettable to hear opionions that question the legitimacy of compatriots abroad to demand rights they did not pursue in Cuba.
Beyond the ignorance and generalization that such an assessment implies, its puts itself on the par with the most conservative speeches that today feed the existence of a candidate like Donald Trump or the xenophobia behind the Brexit.
Accusing migrants of claiming rights where they are that they didn’t demand in their country of origin is a regrettable assessment that ignores the plight of millions of human beings in their status as migrants or refugees.
The regulation of free mobility and universal citizenship as a principle of international relations in the Ecuadorian Constitution of Montecristi, was an important regional reference in a world where xenophobia and fundamentalist nationalism continues to advance. The events on the early morning of July 6, constitute an unfortunate setback for the struggle for the rights of the migrant population.