Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago: Some new immigrants from Cuba need a second look

Jenny Freire Rosabal
Jenny Freire Rosabal Courtesy of Facebook

Cuban immigration is stirring up a hornet’s nest of concern, with good reason.

Are some of the Cuban newcomers victims fleeing oppression and economic hardship — or two-faced opportunists seeking to cash in on generous U.S. government benefits available only to Cuban refugees?

Are supporters of the Castro regime going into exile already — in Miami of all places — because they fear internal change? Or because they don’t want to be left out of the spoils of living on the other side?

Or the worst case, are the new immigrants Cuban government plants, sent to stir up and diminish the Cuban exile community? A new “Age of Engagement” way to spy for Cuba?

It’s hard to know for sure.

But enough evidence has surfaced in recent days that something sinister is afoot — and it’s time for the relations-giddy Obama administration to pay attention to what’s happening in the underbelly of Cuban Miami, and Tampa, too.

It’s time to investigate who is on a stampede from Cuba to touch U.S. soil and take seriously the accusations of exiled dissidents, who say that some of their oppressors in Cuba are living it up in Miami and taking advantage of the Cuban Adjustment Act to become residents, and eventually U.S. citizens.

Take the case of Jenny Freire Rosabal. In a 2012 video in Cuba, she is clearly seen leading a demonstration against Cuban dissidents who are barricaded in their house in the eastern province of Camagüey.

From inside their home, the dissidents are filming the angry neighborhood mob outside engaged in an “act of repudiation” against them, as these violent attacks are called in Cuba.

Freire and her crew are chanting pro-Castro slogans and threatening to kick in the door. The barricaded dissidents, in turn, are chanting “Down with Fidel! Down with Raúl!” and denouncing, on the anniversary of the massacre, the number of children killed when Cuban government gunboats sank a tugboat packed with fleeing families in 1994.

Freire is the one in bright yellow tights and red blouse seen holding up a cardboard banner that says “Long Live the Revolution!” and rallying everyone around her. She’s also pictured on the Internet in Venezuela rallying on behalf of chavismo, an indication that she’s more than just a local small-town activist in Santa Cruz del Sur.

Now, flash-forward to Facebook in June, 2015, and there she is ... married and living in Miami. In her profile photo, she poses smiling in front of packed store shelves.

The man who identified Freire and brought her presence in Miami to light is the man whose home she attacked in 2012: dissident Yoan David Gonzalez, member of a prominent group in eastern Cuba.

Freire’s husband, Adalberto Duvernal — tracked down Monday by a Univision 23 reporter at his job at a custom boat manufacturer off the Palmetto Expressway — confirms on camera that Freire is the woman who staged the videotaped acto de repudio.

Duvernal claims that his wife was “forced to do that” in Cuba so that she could be seen as a Castro supporter, be allowed to travel, and find a way out of the island. She had tried four times to leave and failed, he said. Such displays of doble moral — two-faced morality — are common in Cuba. We’ve seen this play out before in previous generations, when people made proclamations of loving Fidel or being Communists and later defected at the first chance. But people seldom went as far as violently attacking others.

To make this case more revolting, Duvernal accuses Gonzalez, the dissident, of being “a criminal” — the preferred Cuban government terminology to demean dissidents. Duvernal, also a recent arrival, says he came as a “political refugee” himself and brought Freire — whom he married in October — with him.

What a mockery of U.S. law and the concept of this country as a place of refuge to the truly politically persecuted.

Gonzalez says he has filed a complaint against Freire with immigration authorities and with U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, in whose district he lives. Wilson should take it up with the Obama administration. The Cuban Americans in Congress should also support an investigation. Cuba immigration policy needs a lot of revision and updating.

Who is who, and who is doing what, is not a difficult thing to investigate these days, when everyone feels the need to be on social media. It didn’t take me long to follow the online print of Freire and company to discern who is who — and to make connections to recent Cuban arrivals in Miami, Tampa and New York who have ties to open Cuban government supporters.

Looking the other way while rights abusers take advantage of a generous engagement policy for personal gain and to push their agenda is not an option in a country that purports to uphold freedom and human rights as sacred values.

Every American president has made the same mistake: underestimating the Castro regime and its tactics — among them pushing emigration to its advantage. President Barack Obama should think himself no different and develop some skepticism, and quickly.

It’s one thing to pursue engagement as a savvy strategy, a new way forward. It’s quite another to be played for a fool.