There's a buzz in Cuba this weekend that the dictatorship is about to lift the requirement that Cubans obtain government permission before they can travel overseas. If the change comes to pass, that will be almost 15 years too late for political prisoner Jorge Pelegrín Ruiz.
Pelegrín and two others Juan Ramirez Gonzalez and Alejandro Mustafa Reyes were arrested in August 1993 for trying to illegally leave the country. When they were finally brought to trial 6 months later, Ramirez and Mustafa were each sentenced to 20 years in prison, and Pelegrín was sentenced to 36 years in prison.
In 2000, the three prisoners addressed a letter to the president of the National Council of Churches of Christ USA in which, in part, they described why they were trying to leave Cuba:
Dear Sir, our country talks about human rights but employs violence and repression when one of its citizens claims his/her human rights. In their speeches and lectures they (our rulers) equally speak of social justice but in reality use injustice as a bastion of reason.
We are honest men, simple, peaceful and hard workers. We have been imprisoned for the simple reason of trying to achieve in foreign lands that which is denied us in the country where we were born as slaves: liberty.
None of us have stolen anything or raped or murdered anyone. We are men who have dissented with the ruling regime in our country. Our intentions were to leave behind this miserable life and go in search of a better life for our loved ones.
Let's keep in mind that Jesus proclaimed that happy are the poor, but not because they were forced to be poor as is the case in our country, but because they believe in the kingdom of God.
Cuban authorities, in their disordered state of hard dogma, consider every opposing opinion not only as something different but as treason and thus punish it with the cold fist of an inquisitor. They treat as heretics all those who deviate from the official dogma, confining them to psychiatric hospitals and/or prisons or both.
Read the whole letter here.
I could not find recent accounts how Pelegrín is doing. About five years ago, CubaPP.info reported that he was suffering from chronic hepatitis, bleeding ulcers and gallstones.
Most who argue for the United States to lift its ban on most travel by Americans to Cuba rarely acknowledge that the dictatorship restricts the ability of Cubans to travel to the United States — and anywhere else in the world.
But there is no moral equivalency here.
The U.S. ban is designed to restrict the spending of money certainly headed straight to the Castro brothers' bank accounts, via tourist hotels and other facilities designed for foreign visitors. (I support lifting limits on travel by Cuban Americans visiting family members, concluding the Castros' financial gain is outweighed by the humanitarian value of allowing such trips.)
The Cuban ban is just another way for the dictatorship to tyrannize its own people, to maintain control.
One of the surest indicators of the repressive nature of the Castro regime is the jailing of several hundred political prisoners. To illustrate that reality, Uncommon Sense each week profiles one prisoner. There also is a Political Prisoner archive on the right sidebar. To suggest a prisoner for a profile, send me an e-mail.
For profiles of imprisoned Cuban journalists and related information, read the March 18 Project.