When I was a law student and then a young attorney, I worked on assisting detained Mariel Cubans with their Cuban Review Plan hearings. A few I assisted had never been released from custody since arriving in the USA. Others were taken into custody after committing some crime. The point of the hearings was to review the denial of immigration parole (release from immigration detention) by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
I learned a lot about Cuba from representing dozens of Cuban nationals.
The first thing I learned is that most of the detainees never suffered the direct effects of political persecution. On the other hand, a couple of my clients did suffer harm inflicted upon their family by the Cuban government. I’d stumble upon these cases when taking a family history.
“Is your father alive?”
“I’m sorry. How old was he when he passed away?”
“He was 34.”
“How did he die?”
“They found his body a couple of kilometers outside Havana.”
“What was the cause of death?”
“He’d been shot in the head.”
In the rare circumstances that this sort of political persecution existed, the families found themselves without a husband or a father. They also found themselves seemingly getting less of the support from the government and the community that “normal” families received. The families of the dead dissidents were tolerated but never truly accepted. The family, in essence, would always remain suspect.
That said, outside of these cases of persecution, Cubans seemed to receive decent education and training and universal health care.
I’m curious to see how things play out in Cuba. Will the Cuban exiles of Miami who have been waiting 50 years or more be welcomed back with open arms to run the country? I doubt it. Will the egalitarian society that exists there continue? Probably not. Will persecution of political dissidents continue? I think not but old habits die hard.
One of my clients from this time period used to call me every Christmas and thank me for obtaining his release. Yes, he was one of the ones whose father was found murdered outside Havana. He was grateful that he was out of prison and got a second chance at raising his daughter.