In "Some truths about the illegal migration of Cubans", an article published in the newspaper Granma on March 31, Leidys María Labrador, its author, gives us a lesson on how to explain the causes of the exodus with a series of evasions and half-truths. To demonstrate this, I comment on seven of her statements:
1- "While there are efforts at the global level to promote legal and orderly migration... we are still far from achieving it."
This statement, while not contributing anything, insinuates that the solution depends on efforts at a global level. In this way, Leidys sidesteps the particular case of Cuban emigration and fails to explain why Cuba, formerly a country of immigrants, became a country of emigrants after 1959.
2- "In view of people’s right to migrate, our country has gradually managed to reform the legislation in force. Cubans can travel anywhere in the world, if they comply, logically, with the regulations established by other nations."
This statement is a half-truth. The other half is that in that same year, 1959, when there was still no embargo, many Cubans were already fleeing the island. Later, in 1976, in order to stop the mass departures, the Cuban government enacted Migration Law No. 1312, which established an "entry or exit permit," and it was not until 37 years later that this gross violation of human rights was eliminated, in 2013.
3- "For decades, in their eagerness to destabilize the revolutionary process, to promote the myth of (Cuba’s) 'inefficiency' in terms of the standard of living offered to the people, and to convince the world that this is a country in decline, successive U.S. governments have hindered the legal channels for Cubans? emigration to that nation."
What about the shortage or non-existence of basic necessities, the problem of transportation, housing, medicines, children having shoes to wear school, and prices that bear no relation to salaries and pensions? How can we explain that Cubans actually sleep around stores to see if something will be for sale the next day? Are Cubans idiots who let themselves be fooled? And why are they willing to risk their lives to escape from the island on anything that floats? The inefficiency of the Cuban government is not a myth, it is a fact.
4- "In addition, [the U.S.] promotes special regulations for those born on the island, thus encouraging both the illegal departure of Cubans and their attempt to reach that nation by means of dangerous routes across several countries in the Americas."
Once again, Leidys María Labrador places the cause after the effect: the Cuban Adjustment Act was enacted in 1966 for those already in the U.S. and for those who were arriving to apply for "permanent residence." The "wet foot, dry foot" policy dates from 1996, and the "parole program" for Cuban doctors, from 2006. These are regulations that came after the onset of the massive exodus whose first great manifestation was in 1965.
5- "The reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, during Barack Obama's term of office, and the reopening of its embassy in Havana, ushered in a different tone, but the number of visas agreed to was never reached. The Trump Administration, however, reversed everything that had been achieved, and went so far as to suspend consular services and force Cubans to travel to other countries to apply for their visas."
Leidys María Labrador insists that the problem lies in the 20,000 visas, but she omits that the annual average of those who have left through illegal channels from 1959 to today exceeds 20,000, which means that these visas, issued or not, would not suffice for the number of Cubans willing to leave for different parts around the world.
6- "It would be naïve and false to deny that Cuba is enduring a difficult situation today. Undoubtedly, the necessary battle against the pandemic, aggravated by the criminal blockade policy, prevented the achievement of objectives aimed at breathing life into the Cuban economy. However, it is very unfair to say that this happened because of the government's inability or lack of political will and efforts to move forward. It is not clear that a critical situation exists in Cuba, one so severe as to force its citizens to flee."
Finally, Leidys, as a journalist, for the regime, reveals her spots and shows her cards, claiming that the pandemic and the "blockade" are to blame for the state of the economy in Cuba. Therefore, she tells us, it is not a question of incapacity or lack of political will, nor any critical situation that forces Cubans to flee. If there were not thousands of human tragedies behind such a statement, one might be able to laugh at it.
7- "It is worth mentioning that this island does not close its doors to its children; therefore, those who decide to return may do so."
This is the only truth in the article. "The island does not close its doors to its children." The Government, however, does, including on those who, for abandoning medical, cultural, sports or any other kind of mission, must wait eight years to set foot again on Cuban soil and see their loved ones; and people like Cuban activist Anamely Ramos, who, with all her documents in order, is forbidden from returning to her homeland, which supposedly belongs to everyone.
Some eye-opening data that the pro-government journalist neglected to mention:
- Cuba was a country of immigrants until 1959. The number of Cubans who emigrated between 1902 and 1958 did not exceed 125,000. In 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1,359,990 people born in Cuba were living in the USA, which is equivalent to more than 10% of the island's population. Massive departures began after the expropriations, the 1961 money exchange, and the loss of freedoms.
- 418,000 Cubans left through the ports of Camarioca, and Mariel, and the Guantanamo naval base alone. From October 2021 to October 2022, some 38,000 will leave, a figure higher than those who left in 1994 through Guantanamo. In the four months between November 2021 and February 2022, almost 40,000 Cubans left. The record was set last March 28, when, on a single day 1,500 Cubans were detained at the southern border of the United States. If things continue at this rate, according to Leidys María Labrador’s logic, it would be necessary to demand from the US not 20,000, but 120,000 visas per year.
- All of the above indicates that the main cause of the growing and explosive exodus of Cubans is not the promotion of illegal immigration, or the embargo, or Covid-19, or leaders like Donald Trump, or Joe Biden. It lies elsewhere: in a failed model that prevents Cubans from realizing their dreams in a country devoid of freedom.