A Maddening Story Involving Tourists

Vicente Morin Aguado

Catamaran in Holguin, Cuba. Foto: cubaholidays.co.uk
Catamaran in Holguin, Cuba. Foto: cubaholidays.co.uk

HAVANA TIMES — On October 27, Cuba’s Juventud Rebelde published a complaint made by Oscar Rafael Arbesun Perez, a Cuban veterinarian living in Detmold, Germany. “Why was I not allowed to board the catamaran that travels from Guardalavaca to Saetia Key? I couldn’t explain to my German girlfriend why she was allowed and I wasn’t.”

Journalist Jesus Arencibia replied, perplexed: “Oscar offers us no further details, but he and the author of these lines would like to know whether any legal regulations are in place in this connection.”

I had a similar experience in February of 2014, when three Norwegian friends asked me to take them fishing somewhere in the Caribbean. We finally reached an agreement for an 8-hour fishing trip at the Hotel Colony marina, Isle of Pines, for 4 people. The Norwegians also found it hard to understand why they were allowed to board the ship and I wasn’t.

As they were on vacation, it would have been rather unfair to rain on their parade because of the arbitrary decision we would be unable to change in those few days. One therefore ends up accepting this kind of circumstantial blackmail.

The impotent reporter asks about the law. Legality in Cuba? The principle depends on the political whims of State authoritarianism.

Did any of the official newspapers make any mention of the unjust, 10-month imprisonment of graffiti artist El Sexto – a conviction that is even unjustified within socialist legislation? A regime’s inability to confront its own legality is a clear demonstration of its degradation, of the failure of its proposals.

I know women who have been kept in cells for months and who were ultimately absolved in the absence of evidence, women who were simply punished owing to “political considerations surrounding the type of crime.”

Cuba’s Ladies in White are put in cells and taken out again week after week. The orders are simply to keep them off the streets to prevent contagion. For the most part, they are never charged with any crime, and they’ve gotten used to this state of affairs. Habit produces a tacit consensus between fed-up repressors and the accustomed oppressed – both sides begin to abide by the “rules of the game.”

Despite this, the journalist demands to see the law. It’s hard to live where things cannot be consistently measured by any standard. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t: in some cases, you can complain, in others, you should keep quiet, as the policies “handed down from the top” limit the range of the possible.

There are no fools in Cuban journalism. Nor is anyone incompetent, let alone naïve. The situation is such that all debates remain hallway chatter. Sometimes, they make it to the park and, occasionally, accompany the drinks people have at a bar in our cities.

It’s a pale shadow of the self-love, Tatlin’s Whisper, demanded by visual artist Tania Bruguera when, paraphrasing Cuba’s independence fighter Maceo, she declared: “I am not the kind of person who asks for her rights. I exercise them because they are mine.”

That said, the limited but real access to the Internet now offered Cubans offers them a means of escape, be it through Facebook or video-calls that allow us to capture loved ones across the sea for a few moments.

In terms of civic culture, we have been taken back nearly half a century.

If we were to ask the people who denied Oscar access to the boat, they would reply with dozens of empty phrases designed to conceal their patent lack of dignity.

Behind such provisions, which are outwardly absurd, mechanisms to collect hard currency from unwitting tourists who haven’t had a chance to learn their way in Cuba are at work. A Cuban is different: it’s best to keep their probing eyes away, particularly if they are likely to protect their company (the girlfriend, in this case). Another form of circumstantial blackmail.

As shown, our silence accompanies irrefutable violations of the law – and, I stress, of socialist law, that body of norms created to perpetuate the system, a system which, thanks to a constitutional amendment approved during a mass spectacle, establishes that this failed model is eternal.

I applaud the angry Oscar Rafael. The gap between deeds and words is huge if we are to speak of the full dignity of men and women under our socialist system.

6 thoughts on “A Maddening Story Involving Tourists

  • November 3, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Am I right in saying that under US law an influx of Cubans coming by boat to the US would be regarded as an act of war by Cuba? Is this in Helms-Burton, Torricelli?

  • November 2, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    Yeah I know. …I just couldn’t help myself

  • November 2, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    And….? If they don’t want to live in Cuba under Castro tyranny, let them leave.If your argument is about theft of the boat, then treat everyone equally. A German in no less a thief than a Cuban.

  • November 2, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    You think??

  • November 2, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    Let me go out om a limb here and try to answer the question originally posed by Oscar. Why wasn’t he allowed to board? ….Lack of freedom perhaps?

  • November 2, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    There was a story I heard years ago about a large catamaran stationed at one of the resort enclaves that was hi-jacked by a few Cuban nationals who, at that time, were able to board to go on the excursion, along with dozens of foreign tourists too. Apparently, once the Cubans had commandeered the vessel far out at sea, they then set sail for the mainland a few kilometers down the coastline where they politely then asked all of the tourists to disembark on the secluded beach. Waiting there for them in the bushes were their Cuban families who then boarded the catamaran and everyone then set sail for Miami. Since that episode unfolded years ago, no Cuban (other than crew) have been allowed to board any vessel that could be used to illegally flee the island. I’m not absolutely sure if the story is true, but that is the story I heard. Even if that story is not true, I imagine the potential for something similar to happen would always be possible.

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