Imagine you're an American living in Texas, and you had to have the government's permission to visit or move to Washington, D.C.
Or a Spaniard in Barcelona wanting to vacation in Madrid, but not until the Interior Ministry or other official agency gives the OK
Or an Italian in Milan wanting to visit friends in Rome, but you can't because the police won't give you a permit.
Preposterous, of course. The United States, Spain and Italy are free societies, and people — especially citizens of the respective nations — are free to travel wherever they want, especially within national borders and especially to their seats of governmental and political power.
But that is exactly the obstacle Cubans from Santa Clara or Pinar del Rio or Holguín — Cubans like Duartes Miguel Lara Rodríguez — face when it comes to going to Havana.
Without that government OK, which the Castro dictatorship uses to control and repress the population and which many Cubans don't bother to get before traveling, they are illegals in their own country.
Without that government OK, many Cubans — like Lara — find themselves sent to prison.
Independent journalist Ainí Martín Valero reported on her blog today that Lara, a young dissident from Holguín province in eastern Cuba, was in the past few days found to be a "pre-criminal social danger" because he was living with his wife in Havana without permission and sentenced to 4 years in prison.
His only "crime" was that he chose to live where he wanted, an exercise of freedom that the dictatorship will always see as a threat and respond according to its whims. When it does, it reveals to what extent it will go to keep its boots on the throats of the people.
Lara's prosecution is the latest of several in recent weeks, as the dictatorship moves to clear Havana of troublemakers, "pre-criminal" and otherwise.
Another example was the recent arrest, release and re-arrest of independent journalist Calixto Martínez Arias, who was being held at a special prison in Havana that handles the deportations from the capital of Cubans back to the provinces. He has started a hunger strike to protest his detention and possible deportation.
Cubans like Lara and Martínez are not the true "illegals in their own question."
That distinction is reserved for those Cubans — the Cubans in the Castro dictatorship — who think they have the authority to tell men of principle like Duartes Miguel Lara and Calixto Martínez where they can live.
Editor's note: This is not a Political Prisoner of the Week profile, but the circumstances of Lara's prosecution and sentencing qualify him for a spot on the right sidebar.