Immobility as punishment: A grandmother prevented from knowing her granddaughter

Havana, January 4, 2010

Lidia Marta Cortizas Jiménez
Nº. Identity Card: 45092602277

I am taking the opportunity provided by the blog, The Voice of El Morro, to denounce the violation of my right under Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which in Section 2 states: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including their own, and to return to their country.” My name is Lidia Marta Cortizas Jiménez, I am Cuban by birth and live in Havana. Since 1995, I hold Spanish citizenship through the paternal line.

I participated, since its founding at the end of 2004, in the editorial board of the digital magazine Consenso, whose meetings were held in my home. As a result of its connection with this project, my home was the target of several repudiation rallies and my husband was forced from his job. Subsequently I collaborated with the magazine Contodos, and now I am on the editorial board for the portal; the attempts at stigmatizing me socially have not ceased.

My daughter, who lives in the United States, decided to invite me to be present at the birth of my second granddaughter. For this she paid $180 for a letter of invitation in my name, on June 15, 2007, to an agency who handles these matters in the city where she lives. She was told it would take 20 days to deliver it to me, more than enough time for me to be with her on the day of the birth. After waiting for the invitation for three months, I went to the Legal Department in Havana and the letter did not appear. For her part, my daughter insistently followed up with the agency from which the letter had been sent and they told her it had been sent to Cuba. After more than three months the document arrived in my hands in the first days of October 2007, after I paid 15 CUCs. It is noteworthy that this invitation that finally came to me had a date of September 26, and not the date it had been prepared and paid for. With this trick the Cuban authorities tried to erase the delay and invalidate the claims my daughter and I were making.

It was then that I submitted my form to request the denigrating Permission to Leave that all Cubans need to travel outside their country. For this, I took my personal data and the necessary photos along with my two passports: the Cuban and the Spanish, to the Immigration Office in Plaza Municipality where I live. I was called there several times before they told my authorization to travel had been denied. On asking the reason they told me they didn’t know, but that I could ask for an interview with the head of this military institution, which I did immediately. In the meeting with her I did receive any answer, only the evasive phrase, “I don’t know, I don’t know.” The letter of invitation and my passports were returned to me with a document that announced that the bearer, “will not travel for the moment,” with which the bank refunded me the 150 CUCs that had been paid for the thwarted travel permit.

In January 2008, as my daughter’s due date neared and with less hope than before, I repeated the distressing formalities. The Permission to Leave was again denied me, with the added aggravation that the Immigration Office seized the invitation letter, which was valid until September 2008. They let me know they would advise me “when you are authorized to travel.” In desperation I consulted an official at the Spanish embassy, taking advantage of my rights as a citizen of that country. The response was equally bleak: “Unfortunately, we have several cases like yours and the Spanish government cannot do anything about it because Cuba doesn’t recognize dual nationality.”

Right now I’m convinced that my contribution, within the emerging civil society in Cuba, has been the cause of this violation, because of it is one of the kinds of retaliation the regime uses. If I had remained quiet about my opinions, accepted without criticism the situation in my country and applauded the actions of the Cuban government, I probably would have been able to travel without major difficulties. I cannot be with my daughter at a time so important in her life, I have been punished for believing myself a citizen with a right to an opinion. Two years have passed, my little granddaughter already says, “grandma”, but she still doesn’t know me.

Marta Cortizas



~ by Juan Juan Almeida on January 4, 2010.

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