The Ostrich Syndrome

Un grupo de inmigrantes cubanos cortó la carretera interamericana en frontera entre Costa Rica y Panamá en protesta por ser retenidos. (Álvaro Sánchez/cortesía/El Nuevo Herald)
A group of Cuban immigrants block the Interamerican Highway at the border between Costa Rica and Panama in protest at being held. (Alvaro Sanchez / courtesy / El Nuevo Herald)

Like the ostrich who buries his head in the sand so as not to see what terrifies or disgusts him, the Cuban government and official media have refused to recognize the plight of thousands of compatriots stranded at the borders of Central America. Single men and women, families with children, workers, peasants, students, Cubans all, are attacked by immigration authorities, exploited by human traffickers, and punished by a nature they don’t know, in their desire to emigrate to the North.

Not a single statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, no comments in the Communist Party’s provincial meetings, not one clarification from a delegate in the Accountability Assemblies of People’s Power. Not even on radio, television or the nationally circulating digital media has there been any mention of the issue.

However, in the street everyone is talking about it because they hear about it on foreign radio broadcasts, despite the interference, they see it through prohibited and persecuted satellite dishes, or they hear of it by using anonymous proxies to access the internet sites so delightedly blocked by the soldiers of information. In the most dramatic cases, they learn about it first hand, because they have a relative or friend suffering through it.

Cuba is bleeding into an uncontrollable migratory hemorrhage, but listening to officials and official journalists gives the impression that this is the country’s least important problem.

Cuba is bleeding into an uncontrollable migratory hemorrhage, but listening to officials and official journalists gives the impression that this is the country’s least important problem. The speeches follow a script drafted from above and focus on demanding more discipline and a high level of command and control. Inspectors go to stores and count the inventory to the last nail, checking for missing or diverted resources, but fail to note the thousands of employees who leave the island each year, be they warehouse workers or inspectors.

The nation’s expanding desire to leave appears to be of no importance nor cause any pain according to the government’s rhetoric. It is as if there is no interest in the fate of those who launch themselves on the sea or put themselves in the hands of coyotes, leaving everything behind: their professions, property, part of their family, promises of love, debts…

We are becoming a plague issuing from a country that boasts of its healthcare services. We are rejected, disdained, in airports and at border crossings despite our reputation as a sympathetic and friendly people that took us centuries to craft. This new scum* that has leapt from the oven, from the “crucible of the Revolution,” does not want to melt in the mold where they try to tame its nature. In Cuba there is no war as in Syria, no famine like that of some African countries, only the fear that with improved relations with the United States the privileges awarded by the so-called Cuban Adjustment Act will be eliminated.

In the same way that parents do not divorce their children, States should not lose interest in what happens to their citizens, before whom they have duties, some of which are not even promulgated in laws or articulated in the Constitution. Worse still is the silence of the media, gagged by the same old culture of secrecy. The ostrich buries its head in the sand from cowardice, but its wings are too short to cover the eyes and ears of others.

*Translator’s note: During the Mariel Boatlift Fidel Castro said “let the scum (escoria ) go.”


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