Cuba: Journalism Prize Winner Denied Permission to Leave Cuba

Yoani Sánchez, Cuban blogger writing in Generacion Y blog, was once again denied permission to leave the island nation of Cuba to go receive the 2009 Maria Moors Cabot award, the oldest international award for journalism.  She recorded a video of her visit to the immigration offices where once again, the 4th time in the last couple of years, she was denied the permission to leave the island. She uploaded the video  and made it known through her twitter account:

In her post, she wrote:

Soy un poco ilusa. Hasta el minuto antes que comenzara la ceremonia del María Moors Cabot –celebrada ayer– pensé que el gobierno cubano iba a cambiar su decisión y dejarme salir. De ahí que guardé la grabación que hice en la Oficina de Inmigración y Extranjería el lunes 12 de Octubre. Hoy, al comprobar que sigo en el mismo sitio, me he decidido a publicarla, pensando especialmente en todos aquellos que están pasando por situaciones similares.

La emoción, el tener tanto que decir, me hicieron hablar a una velocidad difícil para subtitular, pero siento el alivio de haber dicho ante esos uniformes militares todo lo que pienso de ellos y de sus restricciones absurdas.

I'm a bit naive. Until the minute before the start of the Maria Moors Cabot ceremony -celebrated yesterday- I thought the Cuban government would change its mind and let me leave. That's why I had kept to myself the video I made at the Office of Immigration and Foreign Affairs on Monday October 12. Today, once I proved that I am still in the same place, I've decided to publish it, thinking particularly in all of those who are going through similar situations.

The excitement, having so much to say, made me speak at a speed difficult to caption, but I feel relief in having said in front of those military uniforms all of what I think about them and their absurd restrictions.

In the video she repeatedly asks the official behind the counter to give her the reasons why she is not allowed to travel. This is how the conversation goes:

Well, I'm coming to see if the prohibition to travel which I've had for over a year has been lifted.

-You can't travel yet

Still? And when will this ban be lifted, do you have any idea?


Well, if I can't get on a plane, it is a ban.

-You are not yet authorized to travel.

And what are the reasons?

-I don't know the reasons.

I don't have any legal causes pending, I am not being processed before a tribunal…

-Go to Citizen Affairs…

I've gone there many times, they know me there, but what I want to know is if this is a ban for life, if I'll be able to leave this country some day. If I should keep trying. What do I do?

-For the time being you are not allowed to travel.

You know this is a violation to my constitutional rights

You are, here, violating my rights as a citizen to be able to move, come and go from my country. This is very serious. For a military institution to deny a civilian citizen a fundamental right, that is like the right to education, to food, the right to move.

- For the time being you are not allowed to travel.

Yes I already have heard that, I know. But what I want is that whomever made the decision, who has the answer, to show their face.

-I am showing my face.

No, you are not giving me an answer, you are repeating the same thing which is written in these papers.

I want an answer to why Yoani Sanchez can't leave the country. Are they so scared of me outside of Cuba?

-For the time being you are not allowed to travel.

Why don't you want me to put a foot on the plane? What are they afraid of? That this 110 pound little person could what? Make a tsunami? Then, why don't they let me leave the country?

-I have told you…

You are embarrassing yourselves. No, but I want to repeat it. You are having the most shameful moment in your lives.

This institution, what you represent, this permission to leave will one day come to an end. My grandchildren will not live under these conditions. When I tell them the story of how the institutions in my country violated my right to move, they won't believe me. What are you going to tell your children? That you were dedicated to violate the rights of Cubans? Is that what you are going to tell them? Because honestly, I feel sorry for you, who are going to have to tell this to your children one day. Not me. I have never violated any one's rights. I just want to be able to exercise my right to behave like a free person. Why can't I? Why? Why am I systematically denied permission to leave? Who is the person making this decision? They should stop being cowards and show their face and tell me: “Yoani Sanchez, you can't travel because of a, b and c…” But no…

-I am giving you the answer

No, you are just saying no. You are not giving me the reasons. Why? I am not being processed in tribunals, I don't have pending causes, I've never been in the military, I don't hold state secrets, I'm not even a doctor, for whom you don't allow travel for the first 5 years, they need a liberation. I am none of that. I am a person dedicated to the pen. Why can't I leave? aaah. I do know why I can't leave, but I'm waiting for one of you to tell me.

Because you have an ideological filter. This country is a big jail, with an ideological fence. A partisan fence. And citizens here are judged by political colors. Here we have first rate, second rate and fifth rate citizens…And I don't know in which category I am, but I must be in an underground one, right? Why? Because of an ideological filter.

But this one day will come to an end. Because this nation has nothing to do with an ideology, with a party, this nation has been and will be before and after you. And then, you will have to account for your actions of all the violations made to us Cubans. Honestly, I'm really sorry, but the future isn't with you. The future is with us. I am 34 years old, I'm going to live, I´m going to live it, and I'll be very happy when I can move freely. And the only thing you are doing is pulling the rubber band very tight. When I can put a foot outside this country, the consequences are going to be a lot greater because that's how you wanted it. That every time more people read my blog, because that's what you have caused. That more people admire me and greet me on the streets, because that's what you have provoked. With prohibitions, with authoritarianism, with police surveillance.

The only thing you have provoked is that all what I do becomes more attractive. So, if I have to thank someone, I have to thank the organisms of State Security, The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Immigration who have contributed to the phenomenon that is my blog, each time greater. Honestly. Thanks!

She also sent in a video acceptance speech to the Maria Moors Cabot award ceremony at Columbia university:

Periodismo Ciudadano (Citizen Journalism) blog also posted a full account of Yoani's situation, including several other videos regarding her current situation. One is from a Miami news channel, where Yoani is given a phone interview where she once again tells of her experience, and Martí news station who is echoeing Amnesty International's call to attention to Yoani's situation.


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