Granma International
July 6, 2004

‘This is a crazy idea!’

JEAN-GUY ALLARD—Special for Granma International—

“THIS is a completely crazy idea.” Alfredo Ramírez has lived in New Jersey for more than 20 years and works in New York. He is waiting for his return flight to the United States at José Martí Airport’s Terminal 2. For him, like the majority of Cuban-Americans, the anti-family measures of the George W. Bush government have no sense whatsoever.

“All my family is here,” he tells me. “Everybody. I have family in Havana, family on the island (of Youth), in different parts. I have been coming to Cuba once every two years... And now...”

“And now you have to wait for three years before your next visit?”

“Let’s see what happens. It’s unbelievable... My mother is sick, very sick. She has cancer.”

“So three years on...?”

“I’m never going to be able to see my mother again? That’s completely ridiculous!”

“Did you see what happened at Miami Airport?”

“Yes, I was here. It was heavy, very heavy. Of course there has to be a lot of controversy! Nobody is going to be able to separate the Cuban family. Let Bush do what he likes. All that really surprised me because what he did is not logical on the part of a politician.


For his part, Ramón García, also awaiting his return flight, has lived in Miami for 24 years.

He doesn’t have a very good opinion of the author of the restrictions either. He’s not afraid to say what he thinks.

“It’s really shit that this president is going to split up families. I don’t think he’s going to make it (in the November elections). Things are really hot in Miami. I talked with my son and he told me that the people over there are mad at this.”

All his family are on the island too.

“My whole family is here. It’s a large family. And my family is angry: this separation of families isn’t coming from the government here but from the government over there.”

Visibly distressed, he admits a certain incredulity.

“This really hurts me. And now I can’t come back for three years? I think that’s impossible and that this Kerry – the Democratic candidate – will get rid of this in January when he assumes the presidency.”

And he concludes: “That order was a big mistake... and, for that reason, this president’s no good.”

Surrounded by her family, a grandmother, Ena Torres from Miami, heads toward the immigration booth.

“And how was your stay?”

“Wonderful! Twenty-one days! I have a big family here.”

“And the new measures?”

“Well, imagine! Nobody likes that. It hurts me because I would like to come and see my children and grandchildren more often. I’m 76 years old.”

“And what does your family in Miami think about it all?”

“They’re very upset because everyone has family here. It’s very hard. It isn’t going to last, it can’t.”

Brothers Eddie and Héctor González have been resident in California since they were children. Young, and very much part of the U.S. world, they prefer to talk in English. They have come from Sancti Spíritus where all their Cuban relatives live.

Although they consider themselves American and patriotic, having grown up in the United States, they affirm that they are very upset about the new measures, which prevent them from coming back again for a visit as enjoyable as the one that they have just experienced for the foreseeable future.

“It’s a shame that there aren’t normal relations between our two countries,” Eddie laments.

The situation of Dairen Betancourt from Pinar del Río reveals another angle on the new situation decreed by the White House.

She is traveling to California with an immigration visa obtained via the U.S. government’s migratory lottery through which a few thousand Cubans annually receive authorization to emigrate legally. The majority of them do so for economic reasons with the aim of supporting their family.

Her husband is waiting for her in Los Angeles.

But now the bomba – as the lottery process is known here – comes with a trick: a ban on returning for three years in addition to a large number of restrictions that severely curtail remittances and parcels from the United States.

“Will you not be coming back for three years?”

Kissing her eight-month-old nephew Roberto with much love, Dairen reveals all her concern with one look.

“We shall see...” she says, her smile mingled with apprehension.