Joe and Yuliet

Some weeks back I called on Babalú readers to help with donations for a friend in need. Many of you stepped forward and gave to help reunite my friend Joe Papp with his wife Yuliet. Joe and I are extremely thankful for all of your contributions and I, personally, am honored and humbled by your selflessness. I’m certain there are some that have wondered as to their fate and why I havent posted any further news on the troubled couple.

I cant even begin to detail everything that has transpired since my call for donations here on this blog but to make a very long and arduous story short: Yuliet was busted by Venezuelan authorities and incarcerated. She is to be deported back to Cuba today.

I havent written about this as I think the entries published here asking for help may have led to Yuliet’s problems with Venezuelan and Cuban authorities. I cant help but think, given the clandestine nature of the communications between parties involved and the somewhat covert circumstances, that the only way this situation could have come to the attention of the Venezuelan and Cuban authorities was through the postings on this blog.

It was, for all intents and purposes, a catch-22. Had Joe not had the help from the readers of this blog he would not have had the money to get Yuliet to the states, and since this blog is monitored, it was probably through this blog that the news of her defection was learned.

I thought long and hard and debated whether or not to publish the post on Joe and Yuliet, knowing full well that it may become a problem. But Joe was in a pinch and in a desperate situation and with his consent I decided to run with it. Of course, I have no proof that it was Babalu that gave away the story, but I cant help but feel responsible in some way.

Joe and Yuliet are still countries apart, and Yuliet faces a very uncertain and dire future in Cuba. Given her high profile as a Cuban athlete, plus the fact that she’s married to an American, and the fact that she tried to defect and is being repatriated, she will most likely end up in a Cuban prison or have her and her family suffer dire consequences as a result.

My heart goes out to Joe and Yuliet and I truly thank all of you out there who helped out with a few dollars to reunite the couple. I’m deeply saddened by all of this and can only hope that the separation of the Cuban family will soon be a painful memory of a painful past.

You can read more about Joe and Yuliet in this article from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

And, if there’s anyone out there that thinks they might possibly be able to lend a hand or offer some advice or information, I respectfully urge you to email me.

13 thoughts on “Joe and Yuliet”

  1. I believe Joe should lay the blame where it really belongs: on the castro government and not on the Cuban “embargo.”

    Joe didn’t have a “problem” visiting Cuba and happily cycling around the island until it personally afected him. I’m sorry, but you can’t separate politics from tourism or sports when you visit a Country whose totalitarian system murders, tortures and incarcerates people.

    I’m sorry if I sound heatless, but there are too many Cubans that have been suffering the same fate as Joe and Yuliet for 47 years while other continue to visit and bring $$$ to the island.

  2. I can’t help it, but to agree with Firefly on this. I think that he should stand in line and wait to get Yuliet out of Cuba like the rest of us have done for a very long time. When I think of poeple like Biscet literely rotting in Cuban prisions, and these are people that could actually have an impact on millions of Cubans and their future, Papp’s dilema seems minor. Good luck to him, in the future he may decide to choose more wisely where he decides to bike.

    Yuliet just joined the ranks of Dr. Molina.

  3. Sad, but I think Orlando is correct and Joe will have to take his turn in line. The whole situation is one big tragic mess, for him and everyone else in his shoes. Perhaps his best shot at resolution is the publicity he’s getting through this blog.

  4. Firefly,

    I dont think Joe is laying blame on the embargo specifically. He knows very well who’s to blame for Cuba’s ills. I think his comment is out of frustration with the lack of support he and Yuliet have received to get her paperwork and visa approved from the US government. believe me, Joe is no friend of fidel castros government.

    And yes, I understand there are many in Cuba languishing and awaiting the day when they can leave and I wish there was something more I could do to help them, and in essence, thats the reason we are all here every day, day after day, yet that doesnt deter me from helping Joe or anyone else that comes to me asking for assistance.

  5. Here is another piece of info:

    I don’t know the messy circumstances under which Yuliet was arrested in Venezuela or why Spain – according to the article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – would forece her to choose between Cuba and Venzuela (of all places), but it has been reported that the US Embassy personnel in Venzuela does help Cubans trying to bolt so they don’t have to take the dangerous smuggling routes.

  6. Firstly, I appreciate Val’s continued support of Yuliet and me, and the insightfulness of the discourse on babalu. However, please let it be known that I do not blame the US government for the situation in Cuba or for my wife’s difficulty in joining me in the United States. After all, while the US government might delay her legal entry into the United States by the inefficiencies in their visa processing system, and while they might forcibly repatriate her to Cuba if she was interdicted on the high seas, it’s the Cuban regime that limits the free travel of its citizens while at the same time creating an intolerable situation for 99.99999% of Cuban population. Castro, Castro and co. are responsible for the suffering and misery in Cuba.

    However, if the US is going to maintain the travel prohibitions on US citizens and the embargo, then the least this government can do is 1) Not lose my wife’s paperwork or otherwise delay inexplicably its arrival in Havana, as is the case here and 2) In recognition of the fact that were my wife from any other country besides Cuba, Iran, Syria, etc. I could visit her as often as my wallet allowed while we were waiting for her visa, do something to limit the duration of the forced separation between us.If there is a special wet-foot/dry-foot policy for Cuban migrants, why not a similar enhanced processing of visa petitions for Cubans who don’t want to risk being shark food? Or can’t?

    Finally, you’re mistaken if you imply that my competing in Cuba in cycling events as a representative of the United States of America – this great country of ours – is anything other than what it was: 100% positive relations for the US government and our way of life. Just like US athletes who competed in the Soviet Union in events like the Peace Race (, I competed in a communist country, kicked ass and let every work-a-day Cuban I met know that the USA is the land of the free.

    By virtue of being an American, our teams in Cuba weren’t confined to barracks or otherwise controlled by state security personnel in the same way that Soviet/Cuban teams competing outside of the USSR/Cuba were shadowed by government handlers who were there to limit interaction between their athletes and foreigners. Thus, I had the chance to drink a cup of rum in Havana del Este while I talked openly and honestly with one of the best athletes in the Western Hemisphere who can’t defect from Cuba for fear of the repercussions against his young son. I could sit on the beach in Santa Maria del Mar and talk with Cuban triathletes about how utterly and completely hopeless their lives are as athletes because their government spends almost none of its tourism revenue on sports development. In fact, I could even stand within one meter of Fidel Castro as he greeted athletes from Brazil, Venezuela, and the USA, amongst others, during the opening ceremonies of a major international competition.

    My presence in Cuba served neither to legitimize nor enable Castro and his henchmen. Rather, I was there to represent the country in which I was born, the United States. And that’s no reason to make my wife suffer, or imply that she or her family deserve to be subjected to reprisals at the hands of a diabolical regime. If you want to discuss this further, please contact me directly at 412.478.3661 and we can have a civil discussion about it.

  7. Well I completely forgot what I was going to say after reading Joe’s comment.

    All I can say Joe, Good Luck in getting your wife here. I sincerely hope the both of you can be together as soon as possible.

  8. Why shouldn’t an athlete or expatriate visit Cuba and spend some $? Do you really think that if the dictator’s regime never saw another American dollar that they would miraculously wake up and hold elections? I’m willing to bet that should our government drop the embargo and travel restrictions that the Cuban people would rise up in arms within six months of seeing how the free world lives.

    I left Cuba 36 years ago at the age of 6. I don’t remember anything about my home land other than the airport where I received the vaccination shots which still scar my arm. Therefore, I crave visiting the land of my birth. I hope the dictatorship ends before I do visit, but if I choose to visit while these dogs are in power I’ll be damned if I’m going to be condemned by my fellow Cuban American countrymen.. Our people need contact with the outside world to receive the perspective they aren’t receiving from the Cuban media. If Joe can speak to just one Cuban and raise that one individual’s consciousness to think outside the decades old brainwashing they’ve been subjugated to then pedal on my friend.

  9. I’ll preface this by saying I feel for Joe & Yuliet and I sympathize with all people who are separated from loved ones because of Fidel & Co.

    However, this story seems quite convoluted, and I’m baffled by several aspects of it.

    First, Joe complains quite loudly in the Pittsburgh newspaper article that he can’t visit Cuba, yet it appears he let his wife stay *alone* in Venezuela — a borderline communist country with strong ties to Fidel — for several months. This makes no sense to me. Why didn’t he hop on a plane to join her?

    Second, how did she end up in the custody of the Venezuela authorities if she was “in hiding”?

    Third, the Pittsburgh story said Joe was trying to have her “smuggled” into the U.S. and that she was supposed to arrive at JFK airport. How is that possible? It’s tough for millionaire Venezuelans to get on a U.S.-bound airplane; how was Yuliet supposed to be on a plane to JFK? I’ve heard of land-based smuggling routes to El Norte but never an air route. (I should note here that entering the U.S. by air with false papers is a federal felony, and Yuliet could have faced federal charges if this “plan” had actually worked. This is not a simple wet foot, dry foot case.)

    Fourth, why did Yuliet try to do *anything* from Venezuela when probably $200 would have gotten her across the border to Colombia?

    Fifth, it sounds like the U.S. *has* processed her visa but she chose not to schedule her visa interview and did not apply for, or receive, the required “white card” (tarjeta blanca) for leaving. How is this the fault of the U.S. government?

    Again, I feel bad for these two, but it seems like they created the mess themselves and are misdirecting their blame at the wrong people/entities. I hope someone has some answers for the above because I’m baffled by the entire story/situation.

  10. JoeCuba writes:
    “I’m willing to bet that should our government drop the embargo and travel restrictions that the Cuban people would rise up in arms within six months of seeing how the free world lives….Our people need contact with the outside world to receive the perspective they aren’t receiving from the Cuban media.”

    Joe, I have a question for you, don’t hundreds of thousands of Spaniards, Canadians, Brits, Italians, Mexicans, South Americans and even Americans of Cuban extraction who visit their relatives back home and American-Americans who visit through third countries go to Cuba???

    The fact is that Cubans inside Cuba do have contact with outsiders, so they are painfully aware of what life is like outside of Cuba, and still they don’t rise up in arms against the dictatorship.

    By the way, there is no way that they can rise up in arms. Nobody outside the army and police has arms inside Cuba. To have arms in Cuba is illegal and can get you a death sentence.

  11. Is that quote being attributed to me?

    “I’m willing to bet that should our government drop the embargo and travel restrictions that the Cuban people would rise up in arms within six months of seeing how the free world lives….Our people need contact with the outside world to receive the perspective they aren’t receiving from the Cuban media.”

    When did I say or write this?

  12. Everything I did in this situation I did with the best of intentions. Yuliet fled Cuba because soon after receiving notice that she should schedule an interview with the USIS in Havana, it was made clear to her by Cuban govt officials that she would face the same 5-year off-island travel ban that had been imposed at that same time on her two teammates who were involved in romantic relationships with foreigners. One is married to an Italian and still has not received permission to leave Cuba.

    As for not traveling to Venezuela, if I’d had the money to do that, or to snatch her off a beach somewhere with the help of some ex-special forces contract group, do you think that I would have had to come begging to Babalu for donations?

    The fault is with the Castro regime for limiting the travel of its citizens. The US govt dropped the ball by taking a year to get my wife’s visa petition documents into the hands of the USIS in Cuba after it was approved stateside.

  13. Ray,
    Work has been hectic so please excuse the late reply. You’re correct in mentioning that the Cuban public is exposed to tourist from many different countries and therefore can receive varying perspectives from the free world. And I’m aware of the difficulty in acquiring arms.

    My hope is that with free trade and travel to Cuba we can overwhelm, and circumvent the security forces and not only smuggle arms in little by little but also begin to awaken the minds of our brainwashed countrymen. The current regime has too tight of a grip on the island to allow such an endeavor. Oppressed people need an opening so that they can express their hopes. The analogy I come up with is this: Trying to smuggle something into a prison is much harder than smuggling something into an amusement or ball park. I can’t elaborate, but if you’ve ever been involved in military operations you would see many more possibilities in penetrating the latter.

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