While most Cubans are being allowed to travel to Nicaragua to use it as a trampoline for a journey to the USA some are being rejected by the Ortega regime.
HAVANA TIMES – Raul and Dayami’s story isn’t an isolated case. Ever since Nicaragua started offering Cubans visa-free entry in late 2021, there has been a wave of unprecedented migration in Cuban history. Nicaragua became the latest trampoline on the journey to reach the United States by land. At the same time, the Cuban Government is employing punishment methods: denying entry to Nicaragua without any explanation, concrete grounds or the person posing a real threat to national security.
At about mid-day, Raul Soublett and Dayami Valdes were left stranded at Tocumen International Airport, Panama. An airport official told them that they wouldn’t be able to board the Copa flight that would take them to Nicaragua – their final destination – despite having all their papers in order. They had left Cuba just four hours before. It was September 22, 2022. They ended up staying there for seven days.
At 11:55 AM on September 22nd, Raul posted on Facebook: “The Nicaraguan Government has denied us entry into the country. We are at a place waiting to be deported back to Cuba. If we come back, our lives are in danger. We need help. The immigration authorities have taken our passports.
Soublett is a well-known Afro-Cuban LGBTIQ+ activist. He was constantly being harassed and threatened by State Security because of his work on the archipelago. In February 2021, during an interrogation, he inflicted self-harm – smashing a glass against his head, which resulted in an injury that needed several stitches.
Raul had been leading the Afro-Cuban Alliance project since November 2017. On September 9, 2022, he announced the project’s annulment on social media. He explained that this decision hadn’t been made in response to external pressure and added: “I will be focusing on completing the final year of my degree and taking care of my physical and mental health, so I am disconnecting myself from all activities linked to social/political activism for the time being.”
Raul is the partner of independent journalist Hector Luis Valdes Cocho, who went through a similar experience in January 2022. He was left stranded (alongside activist and journalist Esteban Rodriguez) in El Salvador, after being denied entry into Nicaragua. Dayami Valdes, who was traveling with Raul, is Hector Luis’ mother.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had granted protective measures in favor of Hector L. Valdes and Raul Soublett, via Resolution 100/2021, which was approved in December 2021; after considering that both of them were in a serious situation and their rights were in danger of being violated on the island.
In Panama, neither Raul nor Dayami were told why they weren’t allowed to go to Nicaragua. Vice-president of the European Parliament, Dita Charaznova, issued a statement (on September 23rd) addressed to the ambassador of Panama, Yavel Francis Lanuza. The letter asked the Panamanian Government to grant political asylum or refuge to both Cubans.
On September 29th, after having been stranded at Tocumen Airport for seven days, Panama granted refuge to Raul and Dayami. A week later, the Panamanian Government gave them temporary residence in the country, while the asylum process is underway.
The Cubans Ortega despises
The following is a list of Cubans who have been banned from stepping on Nicaraguan soil.
- Oscar Casanella. Scientist and activist. He left Cuba in December 2021, with his pregnant wife and four-year-old son. Nicaraguan Immigration denied his entry twice. On the second occasion, they were left stranded at an airport in Costa Rica, which they were able to leave with a letter of safe-passage and they then embarked on an illegal journey towards the US.
- Hector Luis Valdes Cocho and Esteban Rodriguez. Independent journalists and activists. In January 2022, they were left stranded in El Salvador after being notified that Ortega’s government had denied them entry into Nicaragua. Esteban Rodriguez had been in prison from April 30, 2021 up until the moment of his forced exile, and he was one of the people who had held a sit-in at the San Isidro Movement’s headquarters. Both had been constantly harassed by State Security because of their activism. The Salvadoran Government allowed them to begin an asylum process, which they gave up almost immediately.
- Dairis Gonzalez Ravelo. Activist. She was supposed to travel from Havana to Panama, and then from Panama City to Managua, in January 2022. Immigration officials at Jose Marti International Airport told her and her husband that they wouldn’t be able to travel because the Nicaraguan authorities had reported them as “inadmissible.”
- Juan Eduardo Moreno. Son of independent journalist Juan Manuel Moreno and activist Zelandia de la Caridad Perez. He traveled to El Salvador from Havana on January 15, 2022, where he was forbidden from boarding the flight that would take him to Managua. He was deported back to Cuba two days later. About his decision to leave Cuba, he said: “My parents are very well-known opposition members in Cuba, and I began to feel pressured and threatened by State Security, so I wanted and still think about leaving this country.”
- Niurcy Acosta Pacheco and Raul Gonzalez Manso. Cuban opposition members living in Chile. In March 2022, they were banned from boarding a flight from Chile to Managua.
- Carlos Sebastian Hernandez Armas. Baptist pastor. He was left stranded in El Salvador along with his two children, after they were denied entry in March 2022. Hernandez Armas said that he had been persecuted and under surveillance by the Cuban Government because of his political position and projection in terms of injustice, lack of religious and political freedoms on the archipelago. El Salvador accepted an asylum request from Carlos Sebastian, just a few days later.
- Alexander Figueredo Izaguirre. Doctor. He was unable to board a flight from Havana to Managua in April 2022. He had been kicked out of the Cuban Health system because of his blunt and critical stance against the Government.
The pattern we’re seeing here? Cubans who the Ortega regime reject have been activists, made public complaints, protested en masse with the rest of civil society. These are the people who have stood up and questioned the Government’s administration and politics; and they are also the people who the Cuban Government believes that need to be punished or have their rights violated regardless of the national borders they live in.
This is how they become perpetual victims. Leaving Cuba is no longer a safeguard. Repression follows them wherever the Diaz-Canel Administration has an ally in power.