Guyana and the Cubans
By Rickey Singh, Published on Apr 18, 2017, 10:45 pm AST, http://www.trinidadexpress.com...uyana-and-the-cubans
IT would be quite disappointing if, by the time of publication of this column, there has been no official response by the Guyana government to the treatment meted out last week to a Cuban couple who were ordered deported last week for overstaying their time in that member state of our Caribbean Community.
As reported in the local media, the couple, Juan Carlos Perez, 47, and his wife, Zuleidy Diaz Rodriguez, 33, had on their arrival been permitted to stay in Guyana for one month (November 18-December 19, 2016).
Speaking through an interpreter, Perez, a civil engineer, pleaded in a magistrate’s court against deportation. He tearfully explained that he and his wife had pooled their limited resources to travel to Guyana with the hope of finding employment to help build a home for his ailing mother and their three young daughters.
He apologised to the court and pleaded for mercy against deportation, explaining that he and his wife—a nurse back home—were looking forward to new opportunities to improve their living conditions in Guyana. Perez said that things were currently difficult in his homeland.
In the end, the magistrate ruled in favour of their deportation.
On the surface, it may seem just another normal case of a visiting couple flouting local immigration rules, a recurring scenario involving citizens of our Caribbean Community. But it is quite unusual for Cubans who have been so proudly struggling for decades against the very inhumane and punishing US economic blockade and sharing their talents, while their government in Havana continued to respond with friendship and practical forms of assistance to this and other nations of the world.
While Caricom governments occasionally get involved in the deportation of Community nationals, with at least a brief ministerial response, Cuba and its citizens do not have that history. In the circumstances, therefore, it’s all the more relevant for an official reaction from the Guyana government to be forthcoming as the administration in Havana is not in the habit of offering any public response to this kind of development to unnecessarily disrupt good Cuba-Guyana relations.
At the same time, given its historically good relations with Cuba, Guyana should not now slip into a habit of deporting Cubans with controversial claims.
Such treatment used to be the norm under successive US administrations in Washington in dealing with Haitians fleeing poverty and repression.
Following the historic 2014 breakthrough in diplomatic relations between Cuba and America, initiated by Pope Francis, the US is likely to change its previously welcoming attitude towards Cubans seeking entry.
Now in the post-Obama/Raul Castro era, what Cuba needs most is practical assistance in terms of economic and cultural cooperation from all nations as Cubans continue to respond to survival challenges.
If the current deportation case involving Senor Perez and his wife, Zuleidy, is not to set a precedent in Guyana-Cuba relations, it may prove quite helpful for an official statement to be forthcoming that could provide assurances to Cubans that last week’s court case does not signal any new policy in Guyana’s traditionally fair treatment of Cuban nationals.
In the meantime, Caricom leaders should give fresh consideration to the frequent complaints by Community nationals of poor treatment at the hands of immigration officials at a number of regional destinations. Truth is, the excellent treatment by immigration in some Caricom jurisdictions sharply contrasts with the misery often experienced at other regional ports of entry.
Incidentally, when last has there been a regional ministerial meeting with senior immigration officers to review the pluses and minuses in the context of free movement of nationals and visitors within Caricom