The Person to Person Repression in Cuba 2015

Toronto Images speaks of the Person to Person Repression in Cuba

by Roberto Machado Noa

It has been already 20 days I came back from Cuba. Cuba is my home country. I immigrated to Canada seven years ago. My reasons, as for many Cubans of the younger generations, were merely economic. Even during the paperwork, I asked to keep my Cuban residency. The law at the time was that I must leave definately. Due to political issues with the USA, if you decided to leave your country you were a kind of traitor. In contrast, the media spent hours justifying that the immigration was a normal phenomenom in the entire world (which is)

Then, Fidel Castro fell ill. His brother Raul took power. Raul had been the Minister of the Army. To everybody's surprise, he started the change in Cuba. Nowadays, he is holding steady and making the changes go slowly. In my opinion, he is looking after the legacy of the Castro family. Fidel who brought socialism and himself who started the reforms.

It is been a while that everybody knows that Cubans in the exterior have changed their view of their country. Many faced the reality of Capitalism which has good and bad things.Others because they have family buried or lively memories of living in the island. Yet on the opposite direction (from them to us) the culture of repression hasn't changed. Unless, of course, you are willing to bribe Cubans know that bribery has become a common solution to many problems in Cuba.

Westjet Plane in the Santa Clara Airport. ¤ Roberto Machado Noa
The customs is the first line of contact to us. The customs laws favor the repression practices against Cubans entering the island. That repression is a mixed combination of power and bribery. In Cuban law, officials at the border can "interpret" if you are bringing items to sell in the black market. If so, you are charged astronomical fees. Unless, again, you bribe them. 

The problem I have is that I find bribery a diminishing or belittling practice.

Now to the story.

The first part of my arrival went quite well. I must mention there is different paperwork for Cuban citizens than for foreign visitors. The latter get out twice as fast than a Cuban citizen. After passing the first phase, I got to the weighing part. I was carrying extra luggage. I knew, I had to pay through the nose. That is not the point. The point is that, I was not expecting a young somewhat 24 years old (I am 48) repressor. Repressor for personal interest. A simple employee exercising undeserved power to mistreat people for personal gain.An employee feeling safe in the corruption that the country suffers.

She informs me that I was "importing"  $ 712 US  ($  975 CA at the exchange rate). I tried to explain that the items I brought were not to sell. I told her that I visited my family every year and that everybody knew I didn't sell things. Yes, I was trying to pay less as anybody would. I used the most polite form possible but she didn't like it! because I didn't go the way she expected.

She puts more pressure on me. Do you bring a laptop? No. How many cameras do you bring? I said two: one video camera and one photo camera. Then you have to pay for one. And give me the tripod, I forgot to weigh it. At this point, I knew I was being punished for not playing along the bribery game. It hurt me like HELL. I started crying in front of such opprobium, digrace, the same time, I started the fight. I will not pay for any camera- I said- I read in Canada that I had the "right" to bring one of each. And the tripod had never been weighed in all my former trips. The word "right" hurt surrounding ears already aware of the brewing trouble.

Lada patrol belonging to the Cuba police patrols the streets of Santa Clara,Cuba
Cuban Police Car in Santa Clara ¤Roberto Machado Noa
At this point, her superior stands in my back in a menacing attitude (his face an her face in communication, I could not see).  She tells me she needs to check if what I claim is true. When she returns she says: You are not right, but we will make an exception. I explode: You don't do me any favors. I can pay if I must to but you have to show me the letter of the law. No reply. She starts defusing the situation: Sir, we need that you calm yourself down then go to that booth and pay.

When in the booth, I used a credit card (ending in 0060) this way, I made sure they did not get a penny. The lady at the booth was in doubt how to proceed. She had to call her superior because the transaction was over $200. He instructed her how to do the operation and signed his approval to the paperwork generated. I was still crying, in shock, disbelief, you name it!

Finally I got out. The people waiting for me were wondering what had happened that it took me so long. They were worried at my tears. But in my weakness is where God glorifies himself. I saw two police officers giving tickets to the private cars in the area. I go to them and CROSSED MY HANDS behind my back and I told them:

I am a Cuban living in Canada. I come to you because I believe you need to hear a somewhat different story (and peaceful confrontation...). Inside there, I have been mistreated and pushed toward bribery. I love my country and never spoke a bad word while in Canada. What is more whenever possible I have deffended it. I am in the paperwork to obtain my residency back which I unjustly lost. I had read about this problem in internet but never believed it. I had never suffered it in my own flesh. Now, nobody can tell me that it doesn't happen. What is more, now when I read about the beatings they say you give, I have to believe them.

Cuban man waving Cuba flags in support of Cuban Baseball National Team
Cubans in Canada supporting the baseball team during the PanAm ¤Roberto Machado Noa
The police officers were paralyzed. One reacted a few seconds later: We do not beat anybody that happens where you live. Still with my hands in the back I reply: Remember, I live there, so, I know the way it goes in Canada better than you do. And now, I go because I don't have anything else to tell you or discuss with you.

While I walked away, the drivers of the private cars comment: This is not easy. And the police officer replies: Bah, that happens here everyday.

The people waiting for me were in disbelief and one comments: You can do this because you live in Canada. If I do it, they would take me detained.

I tried to find out where to complain but the only place was in the same airport. As a Cuban I know that is worthless. Every Cuban know, employees share a portion of the briberies to their controllers who also need to survive. I promised myself to denounce this situation and here I am writing this kind of long blog. I am not naive in writing what everybody knows. I want it to stay for history.

All this happened in the Abel Santamaria Airport of Santa Clara on August 31,2015. I arrived in flight 2536 of Westjet. I put God as my whitness that everything written here is the pure truth the way I saw it.

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