by Emmanuel Joseph
Since his release last Thursday from more than three years of immigration detention, former Cuban drug convict, Raul Garcia, has been getting around Barbados and soaking in his new-found freedom.
In an exclusive telephone interview with Barbados TODAY from his new St. John home last night, an excited Garcia said he has been touring Bridgetown as part of his efforts to adjust to “this new environment” and to learn the City.
“I feel very good at the reaction of the people I met in the City. They reacted to me with open arms. I feel like this is my country, I feel like this is my home; in fact, it is my home,” he declared.
He told this newspaper he had spoken to his family overseas about the “overwhelming” support received from the people and their response was: “Those people in Barbados are something else.”
“The only inconvenience is my family are so far away; and that’s not even an inconvenience anymore because I am now able to speak with my mother and my father every day. I speak to my mother every morning and my father too,” revealed the man who spent 20 years in a Barbados jail for drug trafficking.
Asked how soon members of his family would come here to see him, Garcia replied: “It will take sometime.”
He informed Barbados TODAY he did not get a chance to attend church yesterday with his local adopted family who are devoted Seventh Day Adventists, but would be doing so on Saturday and Sunday.
“I have also been visiting some people,” added Garcia.
The Cuban national, who lived in the United States for sometime as well, announced how he had eaten his first special Sunday Bajan meal in almost a quarter of a century in this country.
During the interview he kept repeating how he now felt at home and was happy and satisfied and praised his “new” family for their hospitality and their decision to allow him to live in their home.
Garcia’s release, as ordered by High Court Judge, Margaret Reifer, followed the successful filing of a habeas corpus writ by his lead attorney David Comissiong seven months ago, in which he argued that his client’s continued immigration detention was unlawful and a breach of his Constitutional rights and freedoms. Garcia has been kept in detention even though he had already served his 20 years in prison for trafficking drugs in Barbados.
The long process which involved arguments and counter arguments between Comissiong and lead State attorney, Donna Brathwaite, culminated last Thursday afternoon with Justice Reifer selecting one of two families who had proposed to accommodate Garcia in their homes.
However, while he remains free from the confines of immigration detention, his deportation is still pending as Government is believed to be continuing the process to send him to a third country.
During the hearing the court heard that Garcia’s native Cuba did not want him and that the United States, where he once lived, had dropped certain charges against him, leaving that continent as a possible alternative option.
The attorney representing the Barbados Government had also told the tribunal while there was no firm agreement as to where Garcia would be deported, no options were closed, not even further efforts to try to get him back to the land of his birth. Brathwaite had urged the court — in her final submission — to keep Garcia in detention because he would be a threat to national security, based on the seriousness of his crimes here and elsewhere.
Among the conditions which the presiding judge has attached to the ex-convict’s freedom, is a requirement to report to a particular police station and the immigration department once per month. [email protected]†††
by Emmanuel Joseph