HAVANA TIMES – US journalist Anthony DePalma was arrested at José Martí International Airport in Havana on June 8th and later expelled to his country after being declared “Inadmissible,” according to a document that was given to him before taking the flight back to his country.
DePalma, who worked for The New York Times, told CiberCuba that the officers who arrested him at the terminal didn’t explain the reason for preventing him from entering the island. When he went through the health checkpoint and presented his passport to Migration, he was separated from the line and interrogated.
“I was ordered to stay in a corner of Terminal 3 for almost six hours, without giving me an explanation or offering me a glass of water, or the possibility of making a call to notify the people who were waiting for me about what was happening,” said the journalist, who has written about the Cuban reality.
“After several hours of psychological torture, he was informed that he wouldn’t be allowed to enter the island and that he must return to the United States on the next flight,” his friend Jorge García, whom he visited on his return from the island, said on Facebook.
The journalist said he was carrying two suitcases with medicines, humanitarian aid and copies of his book The Cubans: Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Times, which collects the life stories of five Guanabacoa natives. His wife, Miriam Rodríguez DePalma, who left the island as a child, is from that Havana neighborhood.
After waiting at the terminal, DePalma was returned to the United States on another flight at 6:15 p.m. that same day, without his suitcases. “After several hours of total abandonment, a couple of officers came and took him as a prisoner to the plane. And the suitcases were forgotten,” García said on his social network.
The suitcases later arrived in Miami. “Everything is intact, but the reality is that the people who needed it will not have it for now,” the journalist adds.
CiberCuba says that the medicines and supplies that DePalma carried in his suitcases were intended for his friends in the Guanabacoa neighborhood, who inspired him to write his book.
He added that for more than 40 years he has traveled to Cuba without a problem, but after the publication of his book the incident occurred. “I think it was the result of the book,” he says.
The shortage of basic products, such as food and medicine, was one of the main economic elements in the anti-government protests of last July 11, the largest in decades.
After these demonstrations, the Cuban government opened the possibility for travelers to bring food, toiletries and medicines to the island without tariff limits, “such as accompanied luggage.” In May of this year, it extended this provision until December 31, 2022, according to General Customs on its website.
Now, the ministry assures that they maintain this temporary decision of flexibility “taking into account that the conditions that underpinned this measure are maintained.” The Cuban biopharmaceutical industry also announced that it only produced 59% of the basic catalog of medicines destined for the public health system.
DePalma is a professor at Columbia University, and in 2001 he published A Biography of the New American Continent. in 2003, he began work on The Man Who invented Fidel: Castro, Cuba and Hebert L. Matthews, which was finally published in 2006.
After the September 11 attacks in New York, he dedicated himself to writing almost 100 profiles of the victims, which led him to win the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
In 2009, he received the Maria Moors Cabot Award, and in 2011 he released his third book, City of Dust: Illness, Arrogance and 9/ll, which was the basis of a CNN documentary.