A conversation with Yoani Sanchez
French journalist and expert in relations between
Luis Posada Carriles, the Cuban Adjustment Act and migration
SL: What do you think about Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA agent and responsible for a large amount of crimes in
YS: It’s a political issue people are not interested in. It’s a smokescreen.
SL: At least it interests the relatives of the victims. What’s your point of view in this regard?
YS: I don’t like violent actions.
SL: Do you condemn his terrorist acts?
YS: I condemn all terrorist acts, event those committed today in
SL: Who kills most Iraqis, the attacks of the resistance or the
YS: I don’t know.
SL: A word about the Cuban Adjustment Act that stipulates that Cubans legally or illegally migrating to the
YS: It’s an advantage the rest of the countries don’t enjoy. But the fact that Cubans seek to migrate to the
SL: And also the
YS: It is, indeed, a factor of incitement.
SL: Don’t you see it as a tool to destabilize society and the government?
YS: In this case we can also say that the fact of giving the Spanish citizenship to descendants of Spaniards born in
SL: That’s beside the point, since there are historic reasons for that and besides Spain applies this law to all Latin American countries and not only to Cuba, while the Cuban Adjustment Act is unique in the world.
YS: Yes, but there are strong relations. Baseball is played both in
SL: And also in the Dominican Republic and there’s no Dominican Adjustment Act.
YS: There is, however, a tradition of rapprochement.
SL: Then, why wasn’t this law approved before the Revolution?
YS: Because Cubans didn’t want to leave their country. At that time,
SL: It’s absolutely false, because in the 1950’s
YS: Maybe, but that obsession of leaving the country did no exist.
SL: Figures show the opposite. Nowadays, I repeat,
YS: Yes, but at that time Cubans left and returned.
SL: It’s the same things today, since every year Cubans abroad return to spend their vacation here. In addition, before 2004 and before the restrictions imposed by President Bush that limited the trips of Cubans from the US to 14 days every three years, Cubans constituted the minority in the United States that traveled more often to their country of origin, much more than Mexicans, for example, which shows that the vast majority of Cubans in the United States are economic émigrés and not political exiles, since they return to their country for visiting, something a political exile wouldn’t do.
YS: Yes, but ask them if they want to stay to live here again.
SL: But that’s what you did, right? Besides, in July, 2007, you wrote in your blog that your case was not an isolated one. And I quote: “Three years ago [...] in
YS: Yes, but these are people who return for personal reasons. There are some who had debts abroad, others who couldn’t stand living abroad. Well, dozens of reasons.
SL: Then, in spite of difficulties and daily vicissitudes, life is not that terrible here, since some return. Do you think that Cubans have too much of an idyllic vision of life abroad?
YS: That’s due to the propaganda of the regime, which presents life abroad too negatively and that has caused the opposite effect on the people, who have overly idealized the western way of life. The problem is that, in
SL: Then, if I understand correctly, the problem in
YS: Many would like to travel and then be able to return but migratory laws don’t allow them. I’m sure that if that were possible many people would emigrate for two years, and then they would return to leave again and return, etc.
SL: There were interesting comments about it in your blog. Several émigrés spoke about their disappointments with respect to the western way of living.
YS: That’s very human. You fall in love with a woman and three months later you lose your enthusiasm. You buy a pair of shoes and two days later you don’t like them any more. Disappointments are part of human nature. The worst thing is that people can’t return.
SL: But people return.
YS: Yes, but only on vacation.
SL: But they have the right to stay all the time they want, even several years, although they lose some advantages related to their status of permanent resident, like the ration card, priority for housing, etc.
YS: Yes, but people can’t stay for several months here, they have their lives abroad, their jobs, etc.
SL: That’s something else, and it’s the same for all émigrés the world over. In any case, they can perfectly return to
YS: For numerous reasons, their family bonds, etc.
SL: Then reality is not that dramatic.
YS: I wouldn’t say that, but some people have better living conditions than others.
SL: What are in your opinion the objectives of the
SL: Then you share a common objective with the
YS: Like many Cubans.
SL: I’m not convinced of that, but, why? Why is it a dictatorship? What does
YS: I believe it’s a geopolitical issue. There’s also the will of the Cuban exile, which is taken into account, and that wants a new
SL: With the imposition of economic sanctions?
YS: It all depends on whom you’re referring to. As for the
SL: Is that so? With the Cuban Adjustment Act that incites Cubans to leave their country? That’s not serious. Why don’t they repeal that law then?
YS: I think that the real objective of the
SL: You don’t think that
YS: I not only think it has contributed to it but also that it has become the main argument to say that we live in a besieged fortress and that all dissidence is treason. Actually, I think that the Cuban government fears the disappearance of this confrontation. The Cuban government wants the maintenance of economic sanctions.
SL: Really? Because that’s exactly what Washington says in a somewhat contradictory way, because if that were the case, it should lift the sanctions, thus leaving the Cuban government to stand up to its responsibilities. The excuse of the sanctions to justify problems in
YS: Every time the
SL: When has the
YS: Obama took a step in that regard, insufficient perhaps, but interesting.
SL: He only eliminated the restrictions Bush imposed on Cubans, which prevented them from travelling to their country for more than 14 days every three years, at the very best, and provided that they had a direct member of their family in Cuba. He even redefined the concept of family. Thus, a Cuban in
YS: I think the two parties should lower their tone about everything, and Obama has done that. Obama can’t eliminate sanctions, since it takes congressional approval.
SL: But he can alleviate them significantly, by signing simple executive orders, which he refuses to do for the time being.
YS: He’s busy on other issues, like unemployment and the heath reform.
SL: However he took time to respond to your interview.
YS: I’m a fortunate person.
SL: The position of the Cuban government is the following: we don’t have to take steps before the
YS: Yes and the government also says that the
SL: That’s the case, right?
YS: Then if I ask for a change it’s also interference?
SL: No, because you’re Cuban and for that reason you have the right to decide the future of your country.
YS: The problem is not who is asking for those changes but the changes in question.
SL: I’m not sure, because as a French citizen I wouldn’t like the Belgian or the German government to interfere with
YS: If the objective is an aggression to the country, it’s obviously unacceptable.
SL: Do you consider economic sanctions an aggression?
YS: Yes, I consider them an aggression that hasn’t had results and that it’s a mummy of the cold war, that it makes no sense, that it affects the people and that has made the government stronger. But I repeat that the Cuban government is responsible for 80% of the current economic crisis and the remaining 20% is due to the economic sanctions.
SL: One more, I repeat, it’s exactly the position of the
YS: But I’m not a specialist in economics; it’s my personal feeling
SL: What do you advocate then for
YS: I think the economy needs to be liberalized. That can’t be done overnight, because it would cause a fracture and social differences that would affect the most vulnerable people. But it has to be done gradually and the Cuban government has the possibility of doing it.
SL: A “sui generis” capitalism, like you say.
SL: Yoani Sánchez, thank you for your time and your availability.
YS: Thank you.
Salim Lamrani is a professor in charge of courses at the Paris-Sorbonne -