Henchmen of Castroism Are Taking Advantage of the U.S. Border Crisis (Part 1)
The United States has opened its arms to Cuban exiles since 1959, but the current crisis on the southern border and the lack of control in legal migration processes attract servants of the socialist tyranny and violators of human rights to the same country where the regime’s victims found refuge.
This is part one of a four-part series.
Oscar Casanella did not believe it. The repressor, who in Cuba expelled him from his job as a biochemist due to his disagreements with the socialist tyranny, was in Miami. The capital of exile, where Oscar and his family found refuge in 2022, gave him back the possibility of Erasmo Pablo Gómez walking its streets.
Casanella worked at the National Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology (INOR) in Havana until his position against the regime earned him harassment from the authorities and the institutional administration, of which Gómez, also a collaborator of the military, was a part. “The political police kidnapped me at the INOR to interrogate me, [and] threatened me and beat me in cells,” Casanella said during a break in the warehouse where he found a job in Miami.
In July 2016, a hearing was held on his expulsion before the labor court of the scientific center. But Gómez, along with several soldiers, physically blocked the entrance of Casanella’s witnesses and relatives to the INOR room where the trial was held.
Gómez not only assaulted co-workers, but also patients. The audiovisual producer Víctor Alfonso Cedeño, a critic of Castroism and a patient at INOR, was also a victim of Gómez. In October 2020, Cedeño asked Gómez for a letter confirming what he had already informed him of verbally: that there were no therapeutic options for him in Cuba. The letter was decisive for Cedeño to receive cancer treatment abroad. Gómez refused to compose and sign the letter.
In 2007, 2011, and 2015, Gómez “lost” the clinical history of another patient, Professor Omara Ruiz Urquiola, a dissident suffering from cancer. “The clinical history is required to activate Resolution 232 of the Ministry of Public Health, which allows the importation of medicines, when they do not exist in Cuba, for the cancer treatment,” Casanella explained.
For his services to the regime, Gómez, born in 1954, “traveled to Europe and other countries with an official passport. In 2013, he received a Geely car for being part of the group that served the dictator Hugo Chávez.” In Cuba, where the average monthly salary is $20, both travel and cars are luxuries that few can afford.
In mid-2022, Casanella, his youngest son, and his pregnant wife flew to Nicaragua in order to seek political asylum in U.S. territory. But on the stopover in Colombia, the airline informed them that the Sandinista regime prohibited them from landing in Managua. From there, Casanella and his family made a pilgrimage through a valley of shadows, from border to border. He, his child, and his wife slept on the floor of airports until they reached the border between Mexico and the United States. There they turned themselves in to the authorities.
Now, months later, he found out from a friend that his former repressor would end up in the same place as him. He is not sure if Gómez would do it with an official passport, for scientific exchange, or as a beneficiary of the humanitarian parole program, thanks to one of the sons he has in Florida.
“My feelings were mixed,” Casanella confessed. “First, I am amazed at how this man had the shamelessness to come, after so much complicity with Castroism. I felt indignation at how a repressor was able to get to the United States with a visa, while so many activists in Cuba, who have suffered persecution and face the dictatorship, were never able to obtain one.”
During his last year in Cuba, Casanella applied for the humanitarian parole program for himself and his family. Serious threats of imprisonment by the socialist state weighed on them. He never had an answer.
In 2017, the Cuban scientist denounced Gómez for the first time. He filled out a form from the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba’s (FDHC) “Cuban Repressors” project, a kind of index of those who participate in violent or white-collar attacks against the freedoms of their fellow citizens.
In 2023, he decided that since he did not remain silent in Cuba, he would not be silent in lands of freedom either. He wrote on his social media account: “This March 12, 2023, the vice director of INOR Medical Assistance, Erasmo Pablo Gómez, will arrive in the city of Miami, the host country for thousands of victims of the Cuban dictatorship.”
Days later, he participated in a program on the MegaTV channel and repeated the complaint before the cameras. In addition, he filled out a form for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that requested Gómez be barred from entering the country due to his role in human rights violations. “But so far I have not received any feedback on the request,” lamented Casanella.
During 2022, the crisis on the southern border and the lack of border control have caused more and more henchmen and victims of Castroism to meet again on U.S. soil.
I met Casanella in 2021, at the clandestine premiere in Havana of the film “Plantados,” which narrates the meeting in Miami between a former Cuban political prisoner and a military man who was shot and tortured in jail. While watching the film, he did not think that he himself would live through something similar to the protagonist of the film two years later. But this time, as has been said before, reality is stranger than fiction.
Read part two
** The author would like to thank the Cuban Studies Institute and Cultura Democrática for their contributions to this investigation.
Yoe Suárez is a writer, producer, and journalist, exiled from Cuba due to his investigative reporting about themes like torture, political prisoners, government black lists, cybersurveillance, and freedom of expression and conscience. He is the author of the books “Leviathan: Political Police and Socialist Terror” and “El Soplo del Demonio: Violence and Gangsterism in Havana”.