My cell phone rang just as a stern-looking soldier handed me the forms to apply for an exit permit. The mansion on 17th between J and K streets had been restored: new aluminum and glass windows, retouched paint, and an expanded number of chairs for the long wait. Nothing in this recently retouched institution, yesterday, indicated that they would be easing the restrictions to enter and leave the country. Rather it seemed that the enormous smokestack-free industry of travel restrictions–paying substantial annual dividends in hard currency–would remain in place for many years. I reluctantly took the call, overwhelmed by the bureaucracy that had ground away at me all morning. An almost metallic voice, passed through the circuits of Skype, asked, “Did you hear what Raul Castro said?”

I returned home and listened to the Cuban president’s speech before the National Assembly. Almost at the end, he announced that they were “working to implement an upgrade of the existing immigration policy.” In my hands, however, I now have all the forms to get a travel permit and a passport filled with visas I haven’t been able to use. This coming Thursday I am supposed to leave for the BlogHer event in San Diego, but it is unthinkable that the new flexibility will go through fast enough for me to board the plane in time. Listening to the new Maximum Leader, I was reminded of a friend who said, half jokingly, half serious, “In Cuba not even the widest openings are that open, nor are the closures that closed.” In this case I can’t let go of the skepticism that comes from my own personal experience, with 16 denials of a travel permit in just four years.

For too long, the ability to leave and enter the country has been a method of ideological coercion. Obtaining the “white card” that allows us to leave our insularity, or the “empowerment” to enter our own country, has been conditioned on our being “politically correct.” I do not think, in reality, that the flag will fly at the same height for all. A list of people who may not leave will be kept in some drawer, a scarlet letter marking those who will not benefit from this reform. However, something is moving in the right direction. At least I have hope that when most Cubans are able to travel freely, the forced immobility of others will be more of an embarrassment.


114 thoughts on “Firsthand

  1. And the fact that Mary Jo does NOT speak Sapnish, makes me want to cry. And laugh.

    At the same time…

    My wife just bought some Che Guevara t-shirts for my kids, herself and me. We are sporting them on the beaches of Southern France, and inerestingly, there are many more of these around.

    No reduction here, dear Mary Jo. I guess, the fabulous successess of that wonderful paradisiac system, known as “some kind of pragmatic capitalism” has achieved, again, what communism never could:

    It made communism looking GOOD.

    Hasta Septiembre companeros.

  2. Pioneers of the support brigade, the copy and paste tragics continue to amaze me with their absolute oblivion when posting things that should “support” the team “yoani”‘s cause…

    The post 97 (as do the other two posts of, the same?, pioneer, 68 and 69)gives us the link to an interview with our freindly translator. And what does she say, our freindly translator?


    “Honestamente, lo que me cuesta más trabajo de convencer a las personas es que no hago esto por Cuba, o que lo hago por Cuba en el sentido más vago de la expresión. No me levanto cada mañana pensando en “Cuba”.

    In english:

    “Honestly, the hardest work for me is to convince the people that I am not doing this for Cuba, in a very vague sense of the words . I do not wake up every morning thinking about “Cuba”.”

    Aparently Mary Jo “loves” these “bloggers”, although she has never met a single one, as she admits further in the text. And that is the real reason why she is translating.

    In summary, not Cuba. Mary Jo said herself she couldn’t care less. The problem with that is that the country IS the people. Without the people there is no country.

    And our Mary Jo only loves those “bloggers”… as she admitted too in the text under the link copied and pasted diligently, but fruitlessly as always by the pioneers of the counter-revolution.

    Still keeping those little hats with a star and hammer and sickle, and red scarfs are we?

    Your idols Castros will love you for that,you pioneers you.

  3. My imposter is in love with me and keeps posting under my name, and I’m having trouble posting. I guess I should feel flattered?

    The last post (“In America nobody needs exit permit”) wasn’t mine.

  4. He’s obsessed with me, he’s doing it again. Is this my five minutes of fame?

    The other Love Cuba writes:
    In America nobody needs exit permit. Only the Passport.

  5. @#107
    My blood boils at such mob attacks so evidently staged by the defenders of the rebolution aka the castro’s esbirros yet I can’t help but wonder how much of it is about the “pack” behaviour that prays on the weak feeling valiant in their numbers; this whole thing is something that the castros have nurtured & used from day one. These mob is been used & manipulated as a result of their brainwashing done in school told “to be like che”.
    When challanged … the mob scampers leaving only the “professionals” to administer the beatings, conscious of their safety in their numbers & their valor sustained & w/impunity defacing & destroying like rioters protected by the “law of the rebolution” (some law eh?).
    But, change always comes, it is a guarantee of life as is known & when change comes, this people will have to answer … & as many times in history before them, they will say: “… I was following orders …” ha!

  6. Miguel Angel, according to the kool-aid drinkers, the Cuban family surrounded by a mob inside their own home are violent rioters, while the spoiled thugs who loot and burn down buildings in London are pacifists.

    I know what you mean about the “one too many”. It is hard to believe that sober folk can be more deluded than folks on an acid-trip, but that’s what reading Fidel’s reflections can do to you.

  7. This is for the supporters of Castro’s tyranny. The subtitles are in English. Go and keep drinking your Cuba Libre’s while the tyrant keeps killing Cubans.

  8. I am in total agreement wit Love Cuba and Albert. I don’t think this Cuba libre wants to see a Cuba libre (Free Cuba). The only Cuba Libre that this Cuba Libre wants to see is the Rum (distilled the old Bacardi distillery stolen from its rightful owners)and Coke at Hotels that most Cubans making $20 a month can only dream of being able to patronize.

    As I read some of the comments from this Cuba Libre, I could only think, with all due respect, that he or she had one too many.

    For those with more open minds and who care about the suffering of the Cuban people under the brutal dictatorship of the Castro brothers, take a look at the state sponsored terrorism against Cuban citizens by fascist thugs from State Security. Go to the link at the end of my comments. You will first see the state security agent warning dissidents and then… You will see the price that Sara Martha Fonseca’s family of the Pro Human Rights Party Andrey Sakharov (deemed illegal by the Castro regime) is willing to pay for a real Cuba Libre. These so called acts of repudiation (they should be called fascist acts of infamy)take place in Cuba on a daily basis. The video is in Spanish, but there are things that do not require translation. There are thousands of Cubans fighting through peaceful means like Sara Martha Fonseca and her family. They deserve the support of the world. And yet, the looney left wants to cling to the dream of the Cuban Revolution. They get drunk aqnd have cheap sex in Cuba while providing hard currency to the dictatorship at the expense of the hopes and aspirations of the Cuban people. Castrolandia is actually a HUGE NIGHTMARE.


    AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL : Cuba: reforms to human rights much needed – Posted: 19 February 2008

    Harassment and intimidation of dissidents and critics
    During 2006, there was an increase in the public harassment and intimidation of critics and political dissidents by quasi-official groups in so-called acts of repudiation.

    Acts of repudiation or demonstrations staged by government supporters targeting political dissidents and critics are on the increase. According to them, the act of repudiation and demonstrations are organised with the collusion of the authorities. Amnesty believes that acts of repudiation could amount to psychological torture given the strain they can cause on the victims and their relatives. Physical aggression has also been reported during some acts of repudiation.

    CUBA: Mob beat up dissident Marta Fonseca Sara and her family!
    Havana-19-04-2011-Sources of internal dissent on Monday denounced the “arrest and brutal beating” against Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, spokeswoman for the Civic Resistance Front and Civil Disobedience Orlando Zapata Tamayo, said the Democratic Directorate.
    They also beaten her husband, Julio Leon Ignacio Perez, and her eldest son, Julio León Fonseca.

    “He rushed the crowd organized by the political police. They came to her house and she fell on the floor kicking her. They broke the windows, they put irons on all windows and broke them all, “complained René Ramón Rodríguez Bonello Member Pro Human Rights Party.

    The activist added that the husband and son of Fonseca Quevedo faced the crowd shouting slogans, and that plainclothes police were rushed, forced into a patrol car.

    “They took them barefoot.”People say [the neighbors] has been a barbarism that had never seen that. The neighbors came out in favor of it, “he said.

    YOUTUBE: Cuba Acto de Repudio a Sara Marta y su familia – Cuba: Act of violence against Sara Marta y her family by the Cuban Government THUGS!!

  10. cuba libre, the dissidents in Cuba are less violent than Martin Luther King’s movement. And the rioters in England are as violent as fascists everywhere, who enjoy looting and killing when they can get away with it.

    Again: People see what they want to see and meet the people they want to meet. That’s why some Indians have told me there is no serious poverty in India, and why you will never see hunger in Cuba. I made it a point to meet starving Cubans, and they weren’t very hard to find.

  11. @#100
    I think u should take a look at what constitutes a riot, perhaps the legal definition would help you:
    A riot is a violent disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons assembled for a common purpose of intentionally or recklessly cause and/or creates grave risk of public terror using violence & wanton damage of property. I am trying to to figure out what do u mean by “England supposedly a free country” measans in relation to a riot & the London police doing their job, whom they arrested were breaking the law violently & agains the law.

    “…Just this week in London England, supposedly a free country, local police have beat down on and arrested several rioters. Its normal in England,supposedly a free country, local police have beat down on and arrested several rioters. Its normal in England but find it absurd when Revolutionary forces try to stop riots in Cuba…”

    On the other hand, what are u talking about “riots stopped by the Rebolutionary forces”? The “Ladies in White”? Or are you talking about the mobs (rebolutionary rapid response bullies) that incite violence against them trying to intimidate them & trying to curtail their freedom of expression?

    The legal definition is: a violent disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons assembled for a common purpose of intentionally or recklessly causes or creates a grave risk of public terror using violence & wanton damage of property.

    If anyone is guilty about rioting (by its definition)it is those “rapid response rebolutionary brigade members”. Perhaps u need to re-think, in while at it consider that u can use the web without restrictions, u can travel freely & voice ur opinions without fear of punishment or incarceration.

  12. Did you say the law reacts peacefully to violent riots Love Cuba??? Where have you been the last week?? Read about or watch the news on television to see what`s going on in England, and then tell me they react peacefully.

  13. Peacefully saying you dislike Fidel is a riot? Are you serious, Cuba Libre?

    The problem in England is the law reacts peacefully to violent riots. In Cuba it’s the opposite problem, the law reacts violently to any peaceful dissent. Both problems were created by putting the law in the hand of left-wing fascists.

    I’ve met people like yourself who told me there was no real poverty in Guatemala. I’ve met Indians who told me there was no serious poverty in India. People see what they want to see and meet the people they want to meet. In both countries you can meet rich people and ignore lots of poor people. I really see no difference between insensitive capitalists and Fidel-loving socialists.

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