Rogelio Manuel Díaz Moreno

Entrance to the Jose Marti Airport in Havana. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — As the media have published, Cuban authorities backed down from the restrictions they had imposed denying entrance to Cubans in certain areas of the José Martí International Airport. The restrictions lasted for several months, since the beginning of maintenance works in Terminal 3, used for international flights.

While in force, those accompanying travelers had to wait in undesireable conditions, without access to food and sanitation services, having to wait outside the terminal come rain or shine.

After the repairs had been completed, it was automatically assumed that the general public would once again be able to go inside the airport. However, in this country, it’s a lot easier to put up a barrier than it is to take it down, and the directors of the aviation regulatory bodies had become accustomed to keeping ‘the masses’ at bay.

For a while, despite the fact that building repairs had finished and the decline in sales and services at the airport’s internal establishments, Cuban citizens were still cut off by a strict line of fences and security guards. Those of you who are already familiar with how things work around here wouldn’t be surprised to know that foreigners were exempt from the limitations.

A large number of intellectuals and activists rose up and shouted out their protest with force. They circulated letters, messages and articles of protest making use of social networks, alternative dissemination channels, emails, handmade newsletters etc.

The official press responded with hard to believe excuses relating to the airport’s supposed low capacity to ensure travellers’ comfort and how this measure resembled similar practices already established in other countries. They even promised to build new (waiting) rooms in the surrounding areas. This official declaration was expressed by the airport management and was picked up without questioning by Granma and other media.

In regard to the government’s handling of this matter, there is not even a hint of regret for the outright violations that were made against civil rights. In the public eye, the government officials that implemented this restrictive policy remain immune.

Protesters argued that what really inconvenienced them and made them wait hours on end were the confusing mechanisms that travellers have to deal with when entering the country and that the only other country to do the same was Eritrea, not exactly the most famous in the world. I pointed out that the declarations made by the airport management were a straightforward confession of how to violate the country’s Constitution.

Amidst the controversy, I was only moved by the attitude of someone who did actually stand up tall like a prize rooster, he was one of those people that command with their courage and ethics. The intellectual and activist, Tato Quiñones, and some of his family accompanied another member of their family in their departure, entering the restricted areas. The kiss-ass that tried to force them to leave received an exemplary answer that left him weak at the knees. If on one of those days, out of the thousands of Cubans that have to go through the airport, there had only been 10 Tatos, the prohibition would have ended right there.

Recently, for no particular reason, the authorities communicated the end of these restrictions. It is nice to see that public opinion has finally been taken into account. I’m not sure if it was at the fourth or fifth level of power that made the announcement, due to the informality and irregularity of the press, but whatever it was, I learned that certain outcomes are attainable via social mobilization. However, I don’t think we should give the event too much importance.

In regard to the government’s handling of this matter, there is not even a hint of regret for the outright violations that were made against civil rights. They very cynically hide behind the excuse that the restrictions were temporary resulting from the building works that needed to be carried out. They only timidly acknowledged the fact that their measure “inconvenienced many citizens”. And so, at least in the public eye, the government officials that implemented this restrictive policy remain immune.

For me, it sounds like the government decided to make a concession in order to calm angered spirits, in a small matter that does not really affect the deeply ingrained ills of authoritarianism and full discretion of their powers. That’s to say, it’s not a big deal.

Important issues were not being discussed: problems with foreign investment not relying on Cuban workers, privatization of part of the State’s economy, the establishment of exploitation and social differences etc. If all those people who were offended by this airport episode also came together and joined their efforts to resolve the above issues, now that would be a beautiful utopia.


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