Over twitter yesterday I learned that the Consulate General of Cuba in Madrid, Spain, refused the representative of the Ladies in White in Europe, Blanca Reyes, an entry permit to her homeland. She had requested the permit on July 22, 2013, to see her father who is 93 years old and very ill and lives in the Cuban city of Sancti Spiritus. In an article published by ACI Press Blanca said:
My father is 93 years old and is very sick. I wanted to see him before he died. [My father told me over the phone] that he wanted to touch me before he died, but now they will not let me go.
According to ACI Press “the consulate official told her on Tuesday that permission had been ‘denied’.”
Cuban nationals are required to appear before a consulate and apply for permission to return to their own country even if they have a valid passport.
Between 70,000 and 300,000 Cubans are banned from returning to their homeland under arbitrary criteria set up by the dictatorship. Now regime apologists such as John McAuliff of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development claim that “Cuba now provides greater freedom of travel to virtually all of its citizens than does the U.S.”
Reforms to travel regulations that went into effect in January of 2013 eliminate the need for an exit visa to leave the island, which had previously been used to deny the right to travel to people critical of the government and their families. However, the reform establishes that the government may restrict the right to travel on the vague grounds of “defense and national security” or “other reasons of public interest,” which could allow authorities to continue to deny people who express dissent the ability to leave Cuba.
The government restricts the movement of citizens within Cuba by enforcing a 1997 law known as Decree 217. Designed to limit migration to Havana, the decree requires Cubans to obtain government permission before moving to the country’s capital. It is often used to prevent dissidents traveling to Havana to attend meetings and to harass dissidents from other parts of Cuba who live in the capital.
In December of 2011 rumors circulated that Cubans travel rules would be loosened, but it was not until January of 2013 that dissidents long barred from traveling were able to once again travel out of the country. There is no right to travel for Cubans. New rules were set up but in a country with no rule of law the arbitrary nature of the dictatorship remains as is demonstrated in the case of Blanca Reyes who is being denied the right to return home to visit her ailing father.
The Christian Liberation Movement launched a petition drive known as the Heredia Project and have gathered thousands of signatures calling on the regime to recognize the right to travel of Cubans and to demand real not fake change. In the meantime despite all the propaganda and press the regime with its diktats keeps Cuban families divided and in Blanca’s case a daughter from seeing her dying father.