Urbano, Another Cuban Unable to Enter Cuba
Last May 3rd Urbano Gonzalez Roman, a Cuban exile, had what you call a long day. He left Tortosa, where he has lived a few years and traveled to Barcelona to take flight #6621 to Havana on Iberia Airlines. He thought, among other things, about his 72-year-old mother’s joy because she would get to spend May 8th with her son, whom she had not seen in four years.
Urbano is one of the many Cubans who does not sympathize at all with the Cuban system, but he continues the ritual of keeping alive his family ties in Havana. So in early April, he decided to visit the Cuban Consulate to pay the fee necessary to extend his certified passport to travel the following month.
His flight arrived at Jose Marti International Airport around 9:00pm and he went directly to passport control. After waiting in the corresponding line, an official informed him he was missing the “arrival and departure permit” and referred him to another official, who in turn, was “working” (sic) another Cuban who had arrived on the same flight with him. The second official called a third, who began to fill a form. Returning to passport control, Urbano submitted the document, he was asked to look at a camera in front of him, after which the official told him to “wait outside” and made a telephone call. After a few minutes, her boss appeared, took his passport and left without saying a word to him.
I prefer that Urbano himself tell the rest of the story.
“She returns in a few minutes and tells me that I could not enter the country, that my passport certification had been voided, I ask her why and she responds that she does not know anything, that it is in the system and that they simply follow orders and immediately walks away, leaving me in mid-sentence. A while later I catch up with her again and continue to ask for an explanation–this time I inform her that my relatives are there waiting for me, that my parents are elderly, more than 70 years of age, and to allow me to see them so I could explain what was going on. Negative response, it can’t be done, she tells me, to which I respond that I demand to see an official from State Security or Counterintelligence, there is no one here now, she replies, as I begin to lose my nerve a bit.
“All the while, Customs officials walked right past me without so much as looking my way, as if I was a dangerous terrorist. The official informs me that I must leave the country on the very next Iberia flight, I ask her for the reasons for my expulsion and an explanation in writing, she tells me I need to find out about this at my consulate. Three officials approach me when they see how upset I am getting and one of them identifies himself as the unit chief. I continue to ask for an explanation, to which one of them replies that “Cuba reserves the right to decide whom it will allow to enter the country.” “It assumes the right,” I correct him, he gives me a hard stare and says, “exactly.” We continue to argue and I tell them I am as Cuban as they are, that this is also my country, and that they do not have the right to deny me entrance. Your certification has been voided, they say, The official who identified himself as the unit chief asks me where I live, I tell him that I live in Tortosa, Tarragona, he looks at me like I was referring to another planet, Catalonia, Spain, I clarified. They tell me they don’t know anything, that it is in the system and that there is nothing they can do: you have to fix this problem at your consulate in Miami, he tells me. I correct him “in Barcelona, Spain.” They bring me my luggage and inform me that I must walk with them to the airplane, I demand that someone must tell my relatives who were waiting for me what was happening, he tells me, with a great deal of cynicism, that they will take care of that, that it was their duty to do so. (Upon my arrival in Madrid I learned that my relatives were told I had not arrived on the flight.) Two uniformed officers escort me to the gate and take my luggage to carry it on the Iberia airplane for me. I keep arguing my case, this time I ask for the pilot, “It is not necessary” a Cuban Iberia official tells me, yes, I say, he needs to know he will have a deported person aboard, to which he replies, “he is already aware of that.” I am escorted to the airplane door, there I ask for the pilot again, and things get a little tense, the co-pilot calms me and says: “don’t worry I will tell him.”
“At this point, I am debating whether to take my seat or make a scene, but I give in to exhaustion and the thought of a 9 hour flight and decide to calm down, there was nothing else I could do. The return flight was torturous, I have never felt so uncomfortable, I barely slept. The crew did not once bother to see how I was doing, it was as if I was flying Cubana, a great disappointment. Upon our arrival at Barajas International Airport in Madrid, the first thing I encountered were two police officers who ask me for my documents. They call headquarters, they ask if I have had any legal problems in Spain. “No, I answer, they return my documents and say “this is just a routine process, pardon the inconvenience, you may proceed,” better treatment than I received in my own country. The rest of the trip home, countless hours long, was hellish, 40 hours in total from the moment I left Tortosa on May 3rd intending to vacation for 16 days with my relatives after 4 years of not seeing them.”
I wanted to expose this case in detail, even though it is not unique, not by a long shot. Not only does Cuba prevent its citizens from leaving the country freely, it also prevents them from returning as tourists, even when all their papers are in order, as was the case this time.
Why, you ask, was Urbano Gonzalez not allowed to enter Cuba last May?
Here is the explanation. In December 2009, Urbano Gonzalo openly took part in a demonstration at the Cuban Consulate in Barcelona. So the photographs taken by Consul Calana should not be dismissed lightly. Cross-referenced with the consulate’s database (yes, we Cubans are all required to register at the consulate closest to the country of residence and provide four photographs), these photos become vetoes to one’s entrance into the country.
I hope organizations that document human rights violations by the Cuban government take note. Here is a clear case of political persecution and someone who is not afraid to exercise his rights and speak out.
It is shameful that foreign airlines take part in these unjustified deportations. This issue will not end here.
Published by Ernesto Hernandez Busto
Translated by: HEFA