“How is it possible that I cannot enter my country?” Arian Gonzalez Perez asks himself time and again. This 26-year old Cuban, originally from Santa Clara, has lived in Barcelona for five years, and for that reason he was recently denied permission to travel to the Island and visit his sick grandmother.
“I feel like an outcast, very depressed,” he explains in a telephone conversation from the Catalan city. In his native country, he devoted himself to chess, but, like all players who remain living outside of Cuba, he was expelled from the ELO list (a chess player’s ranking) two years ago. In order to obtain the title of master of this discipline he will have to search for another national federation to cover him. “They have taken everything from me, even my family. It is very frustrating not to have rights,” he says.
Gonzalez was 21 years old when he decided to leave his country in search of a better future. “Desperate to leave the country, I left only at the first opportunity I had, but not before the Cuban authorities had denied me three trips. I came directly to Spain and did not even intend to stay, but I had to because of the poverty on the Island. I borrowed money and came, but the tournaments went badly for me and I could not pay the debt, so I stayed,” he says.
This law student thought that, when he had residence in Spain, he would get permission to travel to Cuba, but that was not the case. “It is inconceivable. Cuba is my country, it is my right and my family. This situation violates human rights,” he insists.
Gonzalez visited the Cuban consulate in Barcelona a year ago where they assured him that within a month they would have answered his request to travel to the Island, but the answer never came. “When I found out that my 81-year-old grandmother had fallen and broken her hip, I panicked and returned to the consulate. They told me they had no answer, and the civil servant that assisted me told me that I had defected,” he says sorrowfully.
As a result of these events, he decided to approach the human rights defense organization Amnesty International. “I believe that I should tell the truth and not be afraid of the injustices that are committed in my country; we Cubans cannot continue to permit this outrage,” he stresses. “It is time to add my two cents worth and fight for change.”
Gonzalez left Cuba before the reforms promoted in recent years by President Raul Castro, which he branded as “lies.” With the changes in the migratory law, the time limit for a citizen abroad to be classified as a defector and prohibited for eight years from returning has been extended from 11 months to two years. The young man charges that the rule violates Article 13.2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to which “all people have the right to leave any country, including their own, and to return to their country.”
Arian Gonzalez, also stripped of his livelihood, was involved in a controversy in 2013 while participating in competitions under the Cuban flag. The chess player was subject to disqualification by the Spanish Grand Master Victor Moskalenko, who accused him of attending a tournament in Mollet del Valles (Barcelona) while drunk and cheating. Moskalenko extended his accusations to another Cuban federated chess player in Spain, Orlevis Perez Mitjans and asserted: “When you play against Cuban players, the other fellow countrymen are behind your back, bothering you… You are confronted not only with a player but with a team of gangsters.”
Gonzalez, who defended himself then by writing a letter to the Competition Committee of the Catalan Chess Federation to seek measures against Moskalenko for libel and slander, denounces the governmental policy on chess. “Chess in Cuba is part of the Cuban government’s political monopoly. As in many other fields, this is a means for young people to be able to have the aspiration of leaving the Island and search for a better future. But many do not do it because chess at the world level is a poor sport while the Cuban government gives the Grand Masters a salary of 100 CUC which is high in comparison with the rest of the population.” Arian Gonzalez now hopes that Amnesty International will press for authorization for his return to Cuba. The organization promised him an answer after Easter. “It would be an eternal frustration in my life if my grandmother were to die without me being able to see her 5 years after I said goodbye to her when I left Cuba.”
Translated by MLK