Monday, June 27, 2005

You've a better reason to be anti-them than me

Sometimes the Cuban police state, unsurprisingly, victimizes those who think they're safe from its grasp: Onelia Ross, a Cuban-Canadian, looked forward to sipping mojitos and swimming in the warm turquoise waters of the Caribbean during a trip back to Cuba with two friends in February. Instead, she spent five days sitting in a Havana prison cell, choking down watery soup and brown rice, wondering how her beach adventure had turned into every tourist's worst nightmare. "They held me for five days while they investigated the case and they didn't let me call a lawyer," Ms. Ross said from her Ottawa home. "It was an undignified way to be treated over essentially a bureaucratic mix-up. When you're in Cuba you have no rights whatsoever." Being, as she is, Cuban, how was she not previously aware of this? Why on Earth would she choose to vacation in a place where, she admits, the average person - whether citizen or tourist - has "no rights whatsover?" She also said she was manhandled by her jailors and suffered bruising and scrapes. But worst of all was the psychological trauma. "This is what a police state is like." This may come as a shock to Globe & Mail readers, but Cuba is a police state; it's not just "like" one. The dollars spent on those beautiful Cuban beaches prop up a brutal little tyranny unseen to smug Canadian tourists. Unseen, that is, unless attracting the attention of the state, often by no fault of their own, as Ms. Ross did. This is what you get for supporting a socialist dictatorship, even with the passive thumbs-up of tourism. Because American policy is combative towards Fidel Castro does not, interestingly enough, make him a saint - surprising as that might be to many Canadians. At least this one Cuban-Canadian has learned from the experience: Ms. Ross says the experience saddened her as she realized how terrorized Cubans are. "They are so scared of the government and are scared to talk to you. One of the guards apologized for treating us harshly, saying he would lose his job if he didn't." She said she is speaking out now because she wants the half million Canadian tourists who visit the Caribbean island every year to be aware of the country's dark underbelly. "Canadian tourists don't see what is going on in Cuba because they're only taken to the resorts. They don't see the reality," she said. When El Jefe finally kicks off, and the secret files crack open à la those at Lubyanka Square following the collapse of the USSR, I think there's going to be a lot of embarrassed tourists realizing the full extent of what they helped to sustain. (Via NealeNews.)

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