Exiled in Spain, the Cuban ex-prisoner of conscience Normando Hernandez, just like the rest of his brothers-in-cause, lived a harsh reality behind the bars of the Cuban jail cells. Now, his new life in Spain is supposed to be full of freedoms and opportunities, but his case has proven otherwise. The Spanish government has denied this freedom fighter his right to freely travel in and out of the country on various occasions, the most recent being in regards to an intellectual conference being held in Norway. Spanish officials have declared that the reason for which he was denied from being able to participate was because of his “International Protection in Spain” and “Political Asylum” status. If this really were the reason, Normando points out that this excuse does not make much sense, for travel permits exist which would allow such trips.
Normando Hernandez is not only a Cuban who was been deported, but he is also a Cuban who has continues suffering the lack of freedom in a foreign country, seeing as that, as his own words state, the Spanish government has served as an “accomplice to the totalitarian government of the Castro brothers”.
Here is an essay written by Hernandez, detailing his “trip which never happened”:
Chronicles of a Trip that Never Happened
by Normando Hernandez, Cuban ex-prisoner of conscience
I have just returned from where I was not allowed to go. This time, I did not reach the country where the aurora borealis is a tourist attraction. I did not get to visit the nation of the descendants of Leif Erickson (the first European to step on North American soil, nearly 500 years prior to Christopher Columbus). I couldn’t walk the land of the Vikings. I was not able to visit the country which awards the Nobel Peace Prize. The Spanish government did not want me to visit Norway.
On the trip that I could not go on, I had the honor of taking part in “The Bernt Breakfasts”. Bernt Hagtvet is a professor of political science who is popularly known for having written much against totalitarianism and ideological extremes. There, I had the opportunity to spend some time with the Norwegian intellectual elite for two hours. Later, we went out to lunch for some Norwegian Cod, this fish which is widely popular in my Cuba.
Along with Professor Steinar Andreas Saether, I headed a conference for University of Oslo students who are studying Spanish and are interested in the subject of the Cuban revolution. We did not need an interpreter to talk about the immortalized Cuban writer, Reynaldo Arenas (1940-1990), author of the novel “The Parade is Over” and more popularly known for his auto-biography, “Before Night Falls”. The Cuban poet, Nicolas Guillen was also present in the conversation between the students, who were particularly interested in his poem titled “I Have”, with which he welcomed the revolution in 1959.
In my visit, which never took place, to one of the countries with the highest literacy rates (99%), and which offers free mandatory and public education, I also had the honor of having a debate with Hὰkon Haugli and Jan Torre Sanner, both of whom belong to the Storting (Parliament) support group. I had the satisfaction of meeting Jan Torre Sanner for the second time. He had met with me the first time when I had recently arrived in exile. I spoke to him about the human rights violations committed by the Cuban government and I asked that he intercede for the two brothers-in-cause who still languish away in prison: Felix Navarro and Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia. They are two Cuban prisoners of conscience who are still kept in jail because of their choice to not accept exile in exchange for freedom.
I also exhorted both intellectuals to support Cuba’s most emblematic prisoner of conscience: Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet. I let them know that Dr. Biscet is currently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and that many people, both in and out of the maritime frontiers of the largest island of the Antilles, believe that he is the only person capable of unifying the organized, yet fragmented, Cuban opposition, with the sole purpose of toppling the totalitarian government of the Castro brothers in a completely peaceful manner. “Dr. Biscet needs more help now than when he was in prison,” I expressed to them.
I was in the land of the poet and playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), who is considered to be one of the biggest and most influential playwrights of his era, and who is also the author of “When we Wake the Dead” (the last of his dramatic plays) and “Sofia’s World” (published in 44 languages and having sold more than 15 million copies worldwide). I also met with the philosopher and writer, Jostein Gaarder, who could not have been left out of a reunion with the colleagues of the Norwegian Writers Union.
There, I met with my friend Henrik Hovland, an author who organized the entire trip on which I was not allowed to go. The purpose of the travel was so that my wife, my daughter, and I could converse with politicians, professors, intellectuals, and writers from that Northern European country. I already knew Henrik, for he was the first person to travel all the way to Spain to welcome us to exile. My wife and daughter had already met him in Cuba when the president of the Norwegian Writers Union, Anne Oterholm, traveled to the island with him in 2009 in an attempt to visit my house and give me the Freedom of Expression Award.
This Sunday, 20th of March, the Spanish government did not allow me to participate in the annual assembly of Norwegian writers, nor was I able to express my gratitude to my Scandinavian colleagues for having awarded me such a prestigious prize. The government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero also did not want my 8 year old daughter to live one of her dreams: to make a snowman. Nor did they want her to visit an animal museum (both these activities were part of the itinerary).
The justification for not allowing me to leave the Iberian Peninsula is that I am a solicitor of International Protection in Spain (Political Asylum), a law which states that the only place where I can be protected is within the State. While it is certain that this law does exist, it is also true that there are special permits which exist as well. Such permits allow people who fall under the category of Political Asylum to visit the territory of any State, as long as it is not the same country from which the refugee is fleeing from. If this permit did not exist, then last year I would have not been able to visit Brussels, and later, Poland.
It is not the first time that the socialist Spanish government violates my right to travel through Europe. In December, they did not allow me to travel to Germany. But it does not matter, the shame belongs to them, the same ones who are accomplices of Castro’s totalitarian government. It does not matter, because truth always champions over lies, and besides, the true German democrats await me, as do the Norwegian ones, so that they can get to know the true suffering of the Cuban people.