Category: History

Vodka Ain't Good for Cuba Libre
by Dr. Robert A. Galloso

Chapter 7

Travel into and out of Paradise

Obtaining the necessary visas is no easy task for the Cubans who want to travel, but once you get one you have to contend with the tyranny to be allowed to leave Paradise. And that is a lot worse than obtaining the visa. The struggle with red tape (no pun intended) and the cost of meeting all that is required is awesome. There was a time when anybody who wanted to leave was taken to the infamous “EL Laguito” Psychological Center (sic) and treated as a mad person because, according to the tyranny, “nobody in his/her right mind would be interested in leaving Paradise”.

Let us begin with the tourist visa. First and foremost you must receive a letter of invitation from a relative or a friend. The invitation letter is a Cuban tyranny requirement. To obtain the letter of invitation you must submit it to the Cuban Interest Section in Washington to have it “validated” (fee $150.00). Validation means that they send the information back to Cuba to “check the background” of the applicant and the invited person. If everything “checks out OK” your letter of invitation is validated and the applicant may send it to the person in Cuba. If the visa is granted, the tourist still must obtain a number of documents from the tyranny. The passport alone costs $50.00 US dollars and has to be paid in that currency. Besides that, it is necessary to obtain a “white card” from the local authorities and a couple of other “papers”. If you want then to “move” you have to “grease the machinery” with, what else, US dollars, besides the official fees collected also in US dollars. Once you have all the local papers you go back to the American Interests Section or the consul of the country you are going to visit to get the visa and you are ready to go. Total cost is well over $300 US dollars going to enrich the tyranny. You are allowed 30 days by the tyranny to be out of the country, regardless of the time your visa was granted for. After 30 days, if you want to extend your stay, you have to pay the tyranny again, through the Cuban Interest Section in Washington. This time the bite is $200 US dollars per each 30 days period, or fraction, you want to stay past the allowed 30. You also forfeit your return ticket (all this is part of the extortion system put in place by the tyranny. Your relative(s) or friend(s) have to shell out all this money in US dollars. (They already sent the dollars to cover “local expenses” obtaining the required papers approving the departure, etc., plus the airfare, by itself another expensive proposition, in US dollars).

The humanitarian visa follows an identical procedure. The only difference is that it maybe expedited by the American Interest Section based on the circumstances, to prove which you have to submit a medical affidavit regarding the condition of the relative you are visiting. This is the only additional document. The other papers and costs are the same.

The residency or immigrant visa has more requirements on the part of the American Interest Section, which is logical and reasonable. But the tyranny, as usual, grabs the opportunity to exact a lot more money from those leaving the country. X-Rays, lab tests, etc., required for the visa must be paid to the tyranny (at highway robbery prices) in US dollars, of course. It may cost about $1,000 US dollars per person to obtain all the required tests. Once the procedure starts the tyranny sends a couple of people (could be “milicianos”, or members of the “Comite de Defensa de la Revolucion” (your friendly neighborhood NKVD, remember?) to take inventory of everything you have in your home. EVERYTHING! You are not allowed to take any thing more than what you are wearing and maybe an extra set of clothing. Once they take inventory (after taking for themselves anything they may like from your household), YOU MUST KEEP EVERYTHING IN GOOD ORDER AND CONDITION TO BE TAKEN OVER BY WHOEVER THE TYRANNY ASSIGNS TO DO SO. If anything breaks or is missing you just don’t go anywhere until it is repaired (quite a headache in Paradise where there are no spare parts, etc.) or paid for in US dollars at whatever the tyranny says it is worth it. You are also immediately fired from your job and, in many cases, sent to the country to do forced labor for a time before you are allowed to leave. Once you go through this obstacle course, if you make it, you are allowed to go. In some cases, due to “political reasons”, the tyranny may not allow those who receive immigrant visa or any other kind of visa to leave. There are innumerable cases of mothers, wives and children “held as hostages” because their sons, husbands or fathers are “enemies” of the tyranny who left the country. They punish the relatives and the “enemy” at the same time. There are occasions when the tyranny tries to coerce and intimidate the relatives into disavowing the person in question. In some cases they are offered all kinds of benefits for doing so, while in others is sheer bullying and threatening. One famous case was the Orestes Lorenzo family. In case you are not familiar with the name, he was a Cuban pilot, Mayor in the Cuban Air Force, who defected in 1991 flying a Mig into the USA. He later was able to fly back in December 1992 carrying out a daring operation to rescue his family (wife and sons) despite all the tyranny’s precautions to avoid it. You may read all about it (we are sounding like the newspaper boys) in his book “Vuelo al Amanecer” (“Flight at dawn”). But, this is not the only case. There are many like that suffering the rigors of the abject oppression of the Cuban tyranny, who are not allowed to leave, visa or no visa. As a matter of fact, Lorenzo joined forces with intellectual dissidents, doctors, engineers and other professionals to found an organization called “Padres por la Libertad” (Fathers for Liberty) with no funds and no leaders for the only purpose of getting together on a regular basis to join efforts in denouncing all the cases of relatives being held hostages by the tyranny (page 289 of Mr. Lorenzo’s book). This is all part of the extortion, blackmail and psychological warfare that the Cubans are subject to by the tyranny, here in exile and in the enslaved island.

Traveling to Paradise can be very easy if you are not a returning Cuban. In any case it can be very expensive to obtain the necessary visas, etc. It used to be that if you were Cuban American you were forced to get a Cuban passport (at an outrageous cost) and a visa to travel to your own country. Cuban Americans who go back to visit maybe subject to all kinds of humiliations and, in many cases, must shell out a lot of money. Traveling to all countries in the world you may take two large suitcases with no weight limit (within reason) at no extra cost. Going to Paradise you are limited to 70 pounds. Charges at the airport by the airlines are outrageous if you bring in more than that. Bear in mind that these Cubans visiting their relatives are taking into Paradise basic needs items not available there, so, if the tyranny were interested in alleviating the situation of the people, they would be happy with what these travelers are bringing with them. But they are only interested in taking the travelers to the cleaners each and every way they feel like. There are no set procedures or tariffs. They charge as they see fit, including bribes. A couple of hundred bucks is not an uncommon “charge”. If you do not want to pay, there is always the next plane out after they “confiscate” your merchandise .

Foreign tourists are given the red carpet treatment. They are the only ones who can enjoy the best beaches, as well as resorts and hotels and visit the “diplo tiendas” (stores with everything in stock; given that name by the people because in the beginning they were intended for diplomatic personnel only), but they are off limits to the Cubans. You see, nobody talks about APARTHEID in Cuba, but it is as real and pervading as the isle’s blue and serene skies. Cubans are not allowed in any of them, except in very special cases if they go in with a foreign relative or visitor. The prostitutes, called “jineteras”, are allowed in the hotels to “service their clients”. They are exploited by the tyranny and used to carry out “certain assignments”. Some say that the biggest pimp in the world is the tyrant, who has cynically and openly bragged on television that Cuba is the only country in the world where the prostitutes are college grads.

The tyranny has repeatedly advertised “sex tourism” in international magazines. Most of those ads, if not all of them, have appeared in European magazines. They are very explicit with pictures and all the details for the ones interested in the “services” to locate the “providers”. THESE ARE OFFICIAL ADS FROM THE TOURIST DEPARTMENT OF THE TYRANNY. No private pimps allowed.

There are other attractions for the tourists, mostly the American ones. Yacht races, fishing, scuba diving, etc. They go and “enjoy all the pleasures” while the Cubans are tortured, murdered and kept in Soviet style “gulags”. Then they come back and talk about the marvelous time they had and what a “fabulous place” the enslaved island is. Cuba is a natural paradise, is true. Fabulous beaches with blue-green waters, beautiful blue skies, moderate climate, etc. The natural beauty of the island is legendary. But the Cubans are not allowed to enjoy them unless they belong to the ruling “elite”. This is pure unadulterated APARTHEID 90 miles from the USA shores. We wonder how come there was such a movement to end this practice thousands of miles away in South Africa, and rightly so, while the media, the congress and other “human and civil rights organizations” that so vehemently fought that battle have never noticed (conveniently ignored is more appropriate explanation) the CUBAN APARTHEID.

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