Cuba Denies Entry to Two Former Presidents Arriving to Attend the Paya Prize Ceremony

The former presidents of Colombia, Andres Pastrana, and of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga, during their detention at Havana’s international airport. (@AndresPastrana_)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio (with information from agencies), Havana/Miami, 7 March 2018 — The Cuban government blocked the entry to the island of the former presidents of Colombia, Andrés Pastrana, and of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga, who were sent back to Bogata on Wednesday, after they traveled to Havana to accept the prize that bears the name of the late dissident Oswaldo Payá (1952-2012).

“It shows arbitrariness and a great lack of respect,” said Rosa María Payá, daughter of Oswaldo Payá and the director of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy that awards the prize. Payá confirmed to EFE that Cuba would send the former leaders back on the next Aviance flight, scheduled for 3:50 PM local time.

Payá said that they are still awaiting the arrival of “other legislators and former presidents,” who are expected to attend tomorrow’s award ceremony in Havana. This year to prize has been awarded to the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA), a group of 37 ex-presidents and former heads of government.

It was Quiroga and Pastrana themselves who denounced in their Twitter accounts that they were being held in the immigration offices of the José Martí International Airport in Havana, where the dissident leader Rosa Maria Payá was waiting to receive them. Payá coordinates the Cuba Decides projects, which promotes “free” elections on the island.

On March 5, President Raúl Castro asked that the “Summit of the Americas not exclude” his Venezuelan colleague, Nicolás Maduro, “and today, March 7, his regime detains us at the airport and deports us along with Andrés Pastrana, preventing our participating in the name of IDEA in the Cuba Decides event with Rosa María Payá. We demand guarantees for her [safety],” tweeted the former president of Bolivia.

Along with a photograph in which they are both seen on board the plane that will take them to Bogotá, Quiroga later published: “Held for two hours in a small immigration office with two cameras filming everything. Honored to be deported by the Cuban dictatorship as inadmissible.”

Payá said in statements to the press from the airport that the government has banned the entry of “two legitimately elected former presidents” within three days of what “according to them are the most democratic elections in the Americas,” to be held this coming Sunday, 11 March.

“It is another example of the despotic nature of this regime and of this government,” emphasized Payá, who as a promoter of the citizen platform Cuba Decides is calling for a binding plebiscite on the island to choose the Island’s system of government.

The president of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, demanded that the Cuban authorities respect the rights of Bolivian presidents Jorge Quiroga and Colombian Andrés Pastrana

“We demand that the rights of former Presidents @AndresPastrana  and @tutoquiroga be respected and that they be allowed to travel to and enter #Cuba, and collect the #PremioPaya,” Almagro wrote in his account on the social network Twitter.

Almagro also intends to attend the award ceremony and has applied for a visa to travel to Cuba, although he is “still waiting for an answer” in Washington, according to an adviser to the high official.

Cuba’s official newspaper Granma published an article which made clear that Almagro is not welcome in Cuba, and denounced his visit as a “provocation” that seeks to “generate instability and damage the country’s international image.”

Last year, in the first edition of the Payá prize which had been awarded to him), Almagro also intended to travel to Havana to collect the award in person, but the Cuban authorities denied him entry.

On that occasion, entry was also denied to former Mexican President Felipe Calderón and former Chilean Minister Mariana Aylwin, who had been invited to the award ceremony.

Cuba’s decision to prevent Calderón and Aylwin from traveling to the country motivated official protest notes from the foreign ministries of Mexico and Chile.


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