[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Saga of Sgt. Lazo (Updated)

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Saga of Sgt. Lazo (Updated)

Back home with the baby today...haven't gotten much sleep after 3 nights at the hospital, but I am happy to have our new addition home with us. I hope to post some pictures sometime in the next few days.

Now back to some blogging....

Much has been posted today on other blogs regarding Sgt. Carlos Lazo's plea to Congress to lift the travel restrictions to Cuba so he can visit his two sons. In addition, the Herald's Jim DeFede has a column in today's paper...his second in seven days...on Lazo's plight.

I won't add much to the excellent posts up at Babalu and Cuban-American Pundits, except for a few things. I sincerely feel bad for Lazo and others in similar situations who can't visit their relatives as often as before. Val summed up my feelings quite well in a post last week:

Yes, the new travel restrictions can be hard on some Cuban families. Yes, Sgt. Lazo's case is heartbreaking. Yes, there are quite a few Cubans in exile complaining about the travel restrictions.

Mr. Defede forgets, however, that it was the hard line exiles that got that first purgante, that first bitter taste of the separation of the Cuban family. It was these hard line exiles that first left their families behind and that for decades had no communication with them save for those emergency phone calls when a family member in Cuba had died. It was these hard line exiles that were the first to shed tears when they realized they would never see their parents again, or their children, or their siblings or grandparents.

Not to mention, of course, that many of these hard line exiles also served their new country proudly and dutifully. Many having never returned after paying the ultimate price for their freedom.

Sgt. Lazo had a choice, just like the hundreds of thousands of others who left family behind in Cuba. He could have stayed close to his two sons from a previous marriage. Instead, he decided to taste freedom and proudly serve his adopted country. He must have known the risk he was taking: the possibility of being apart from his sons for an extended period of time.

For those out there who point the finger at the "Miami Mafia", please take a look at this, courtesy of Center for a Free Cuba:

Lazara Brito and her children Yanelis, Yamila, and Isaac were granted U.S. visas in 1996, but remain virtual hostages in Havana. Castro will not allow them to join her husband and their father Jose Cohen in the United States. Cohen, once a Cuban intelligence officer, was granted political asylum in the United States in 1994. Despite his appeals to Americans and international organizations who meet with Castro, his family remains in Cuba. They are not charged with any crime. Lazara Brito has written: “neither I nor my three children can have legal representation. My husband, who is abroad, and I here call out for help from all who believe in human rights everywhere.”

Ask Jose Cohen who's at fault for the separation of the Cuban family. Cohen's wife and children were granted visas to come to the U.S. in 1996, yet they are still in Cuba because castro inexplicably denies their exit.

At the surface, Cohen's and Lazo's situations are quite similar. The difference is that Cohen, whose plight is well known in Cuban-American circles in Miami, has not blamed the United States for not being able to see his family in 11 years. He knows exactly whom to blame.

UPDATED: In case someone is ready to jump on me...yes I think it's likely that Cohen himself would not want to visit Cuba for fear of persecution due to his past as an intelligence officer. That fact is not lost on me. That's why the Cohen and Lazo cases aren't identical. However, it does not change or alter the premise of my argument, which is that it's the castro regime which
has provoked and regularly denied unification of families.

Sgt. Carlos Lazo, with all due respect, if the stories of denying visas for your sons are true, then you have no basis whatsoever to blame the United States. Instead, you have decided to divide Cuban-Americans with your plight. By allowing visas to be granted for your sons, you would shine the light on the real reason for not being able to see your sons.

Sgt. Lazo, you battled bravely in Iraq. What are you so afraid of in this case?


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