A characteristic of a communist tyranny is that the dictators work as hard to keep people in their country as they do to keep them out. Probably harder. The East Germans and the Soviets built the Berlin Wall to keep their slaves enslaved, not to keep out hordes of Westerners looking to enjoy what the communists had to offer.
Making it illegal, if not deadly, to leave without the dictatorship's approval is just another way the dictatorship keeps control.
Cuba doesn't have a wall, just an ocean, but that hasn't been enough to keep thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Cubans at home. So the Castro dictatorship has resorted over the years to prosecuting and imprisoning many Cubans who try to flee without permission but for some reason don't make it to the United States or other destination.
Again, to keep the fear, to keep the control.
In June 1990, Hirám González Torna, who was then 24, tried to escape but he didn't make it. The how and the where of his particular case were not available online, just some basic information: He was charged with illegal exit, piracy and evasion, and sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Not much has been reported about González, who will turn 43 next month, except that he has declared himself "plantado," or actively resistant to "re-education" and other attempts to break his will. In 2000, he went on a hunger strike to demand that he be transferred to a prison closer to his ailing mother. Prison officials retaliated by placing him a punishment cell.
That we do not know the details of what González did — a charge of "piracy" carries some ominous connotations, even when leveled by the Castro dictatorship — does not diminish the importance of his case. Not to excuse any violent acts González might have committed, but it is critical to remember the circumstances he was trying to escape and the desperation that might have inspired.
That he was prosecuted and tossed into the Castro gulag for 21 years is the best evidence of that.
One of the surest indicators of the repressive nature of the Castro regime is the jailing of 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 at firstname.lastname@example.org
For profiles of imprisoned Cuban journalists and related information, read the March 18 Project.