After 17D: Cuba-United States
By DUNIA TORRES GONZÁLEZ
December 9, 2019.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
A little over a year ago, a childhood friend came to my house talking about opportunities, about his dream of knowing the world. A few days later, I learned about his visa application to travel to Santiago de Chile and, later, about his arrival in the South American country, leaving behind his wife and his newborn child. His intention was to use Chile as a bridge to the United States, but he needed money.
Immediately he began to load boxes in a market and was filled with hope when he received his first payment. However, difficulties soon arose: the rent was very high and due to paperwork he could not find a steady job. The shoe was so tight that he tried to reduce expenses. He moved to the countryside as a pine cutter. It wasn’t an easy job, but it ensured free lodging and food. To get on his way, any effort was small.
Days passed and the money was not much, not enough for the crossing. Without thinking about what it meant to cross South America with an empty pocket, together with some of his companions, with whom he shared a camp, they had defined the date of departure, and his decision was not long in coming. The news came in snippets and the family despaired: the crossing of the jungle, persecution of the coastal police who made them leave the boat and swim to the shore, kidnapping in Nicaragua, ransom request to the wife who had to pay money she did not have, the arrival in Mexico and the effort to reach the border.
According to experts in these matters, they had chosen the perfect date to emigrate to the United States, because afterwards, the situation would get worse.
Later, the Trump administration pushed for new and crueler measures against immigrants. In his outburst, he even suggested shooting at people’s legs, building an electrified border wall and a pit infested with caimans and snakes in order to stop them crossing the border with Mexico. Many Cubans were detained by the National Guard while attempting to cross the border illegally in Ciudad Juarez. The new U.S. government regulation prohibited those who had passed through a third country without seeking refuge from seeking asylum at the southern border.
“Don’t come, we will return you to your countries,” Trump said from the U.N. General Assembly. However, he still maintains the Cuban Adjustment Act, which, at the close of 2017 and counting the last 20 years, has benefited hundreds of thousands of Cuban immigrants, allowing them to legalize their stay in the U.S. with a visa when they spend a year and a day, even though they have exceeded the legal permanence of their documents.
The measures taken by the Washington government are increasing by the day, and not only in the case of Cuba, but in the entire region of Latin America and the Caribbean. With its hegemonic eagerness, the U.S. makes the international situation unsustainable, slows down the development of nations, plunders their natural resources and promotes puppet leaders, in whom there is no sign of defense of the less favored classes.
Faced with this instability, especially economic instability, countless people are deceived by the “promised land”, as well as the loss of human lives, trafficking in persons, sexual and/or labor abuse, or organ trafficking.
Thus, it turns out that the perpetrator becomes a victim of the wave of immigrants that it had promoted, and believes that it has the right to judge other nations with respect to the protection of human rights. One might wonder how it is possible to throw stones at a neighbor’s roof when yours is made of glass.
“An average of 544,000 people apply for residency annually,” according to U.S. federal government data. However, on August 12, 2019, the government’s decision to penalize migrants receiving social assistance by denying permanent residence or citizenship to foreigners who receive subsidies was made public. Four million migrants will find the process of receiving U.S. citizenship difficult because it constitutes a “public charge”. Under this new rule, legal immigrants living in the United States are included if they receive “one or more designated public benefits” for more than a year in a 36-month period. This measure affects programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP).
The case of Cubans, it seems, continues to be special. U.S. media reports state that the Cuban Adjustment Act continues to provide the necessary protection through “a provision from 1967-68 [according to which] being a public charge does not prohibit a Cuban from obtaining residency.
Finally, after waiting on a long list, he stepped on American soil. He already had his speech ready, which, if necessary, would include even a few tears. He would say that he had always opposed the “regime”, that he was persecuted and a victim of repression, that he couldn’t stand it anymore. When he didn’t really study because he wasn’t there for “that,” nor did he work because of the stress caused by dealing with the bosses. He lived as a spoiled child, despite being 30 years old, waiting for a fortune to fall from the sky. The worst thing is that this story is not exceptional; many Cubans emigrate to the United States and, without problems, exchange the integrity of their country and lend themselves to manipulation campaigns against Cuba on human rights.
Apparently the performance was convincing, although he later had to endure a month in prison. They did an interview and deemed him “credible”. After great efforts by his family, some acquaintances, also emigrants, gathered the amount they requested for bail, $5,000.00 USD. Others took charge of writing the letter in which they were responsible for him. With this act, supposedly, the doors of prosperity were opened to him.
He began his working life as a roofer, because it was the best thing he could achieve with his illegal immigrant status. Of course, it wasn’t a serious contract and he wouldn’t have medical insurance, it was all off the books. There were days when they didn’t work because of the rain. He was committed to paying back the money he borrowed and was urged to get ahead. His first days in the United States were not good at all: he had no head for English, all the stress of the traumatic trip began to come out, he began to get sick and on top of that he had a work-related accident. One day, as he was climbing the roof of a house, the stairs collapsed, he fell and lost consciousness.
“Nothing that can’t be remedied,” he said, “but this is not what I imagined. I don’t have any papers yet. You have to work hard and the money you earn in one week goes like water out the other. It’s true that stores are full of things, but I can’t buy them. Now I’m going to start the paperwork to get a credit card.
After the conversation that day, I lost track of him. I couldn’t ask him if it was worth it, but I don’t think he can understand me…
Author: Rolando Pérez Betancourt | firstname.lastname@example.org
December 8, 2019 22:12:47
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Finally exhibited at the 41st New Latin American Film Festival, The Wasp Network (Olivier Assayas, 2019) makes it clear with historical objectivity that the Cubans who infiltrated counterrevolutionary Miami exile organizations had the right to watch over the security of their country, and thus stop the wave of terrorist attacks of the 1990s carried out under the protection of the United States.
This is an important aspect to be taken into account in the film by the Frenchman Assayas, a prestigious director whose work is known in our country. He has made it possible to appreciate the sensitivity of an artist capable of tackling the most dissimilar human problems from intimate stories.
Based on the book The Last Soldiers of the Cold War, by Fernando Morais, Assayas himself wrote the script about a conflict that – it could not be otherwise – establishes who are the aggressors and who are the victims in a history that goes back half a century.
It was enough for the Miami counterrevolution, without seeing the film, only news after its presentation at the Venice Film Festival, to make a fuss and a pathetic warning: in those lands, the film couldn’t even show its head.
The theme of the Five Heroes and the stories that flow from it would allow us to make a few films and series. But in any work based on reality, there is a selection of events and characters, along with artistic licenses put into function of a dramaturgy and simplification of the plot. From Morais’s book, Assayas highlights what he considered pertinent to build a web of events that span several years and not a few intrigues. Although the film has been promoted as an espionage thriller, the director says that it is a historical vision conceived with the intention of capturing a feat that, after he learned about it it, captivated him.
It was advisable, however, to balance the tone and balance the conflict in such a way that a whole point of view in favor of the revolutionary cause did not prevail in a film with foreign funding and international distribution. Besides, the assumption of the political factor in any subject is always a reason for division of opinions and even entrenchments. These can be seen now, even, in “artistic” criticisms in which ideological positions against the “Cuban communist regime” stand out more than an unprejudiced practice of professional analysis.
But facts are facts and artistic honesty, although it is necessary to qualify, cannot be detached from them.
For this chronicler, The Wasp Network ends up being a film worthy and meritorious to see, which is not free of inconsistencies in its realization. Of these, the most significant, is the dispersion motivated by wanting to cover everything and explain more than necessary, taking into account the possible ignorance of the subject that an international audience could have. In this sense, the script resorts to leaps in time and an entry and exit of characters that leaves gaps in terms of purposes of the story and the lack of roundness of certain situations, such as the one concerning the flight to Cuba undertaken by the infiltrator Juan Pablo Roque (Wagner Moura).
Another debatable card -which for a Cuban spectator has nothing revealing about it- is the surprise factor that is intended to impregnate the infiltrators in Miami. It first, it makes them appear as traitors who escape from the Island and later, in their real function, a double game devoid of the dramatic force that, it is guessed, was among the director’s goals.
The Wasp Network is focused on the stories concerning René González (Édgar Ramírez) and his wife Olga Salanueva (Penélope Cruz, in an excellent performance).
Also the afore-mentioned Roque and the wife who is sought in Miami (Ana de Armas), each couple with their very particular love-political conflicts and was carried with considerable ease in the plot. Gael Garcia Bernal plays Gerardo Hernandez, leader of the group. It would be necessary to see the opinions that the real characters have regarding their characterizations.
The film efficiently reconstructs the terrorist attacks against tourist facilities, shows the maximum faces of the counterrevolutionary exiles and resorts to excerpts from the archives as a reminder that everything that counts comes from reality. This is how President Clinton and Fidel appear separately, towards the end, during an interview with an American journalist. Fidel is conclusive about the right of the most spied country in the world, Cuba, to know what the enemies are doing on U.S. soil to attack the Cuban people.