14ymedio, Havana, 14 December 2016 – Yesterday, Tuesday afternoon, Carlos Amel Oliva checked in well in advance with his ticket to take Air Europe Flight 052 that was leaving for Madrid just after 10:00 PM, intending to connect from the Spanish capital to travel on to Poland. However, the activist was not able to board because an immigration official told him he was prohibited from leaving.
Oliva was invited to participate in the third edition of Warsaw Democratic Dialogue as a representative of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).
Upon reaching the immigration controls he was separated from the line. “They took me to an office where there was an official who was apparently the shift manager, who explained that I appeared in their computer system as a person prohibited from leaving,” he explained to 14ymedio.
Carlos Amel asked for an explanation, which he felt he deserved, but the control officials responded that they “didn’t work on that part.”
The dissident told this newspaper what had happened a few yards from the check-in desk for his flight. “[The official] suggested that I direct myself to the appropriate entities, such as the prosecutor, so that I could find out the reasons and I replied that I already knew, because surely the only possible reason was my status as a dissident, a peaceful opponent.”
“I do not have any unpaid fines, nor am I in the midst of a judicial or police investigative process,” Amel Oliva stated, rejecting that he was subject to these established reasons for being denied the right to travel.
On December 10, International Human Rights Day, his father, also named Carlos, was also unable to take his plane at Terminal 2 at José Martí International Airport, heading to a meeting sponsored by Freedom House and the Venezuelan Institute of Parliamentary Studies that was being held in the United States. The UNPACU youth leader’s father also did not receive any satisfactory explanation.
“Obviously,” Carlos Amel Oliva commented before leaving the terminal to return to Santiago de Cuba, “this measure I have been the victim of is not consistent with the signing of agreements between Cuba and the European Union, which has set aside its so-called Common Position. The European Union has done something that could be called a goodwill gesture, having ceased to condition its relations with the Cuban government on issues of human rights, but this is how the government repays the gesture: preventing a peaceful dissident from attending an event organized by civil society in a European country,” he lamented.
The current Cuban immigration law, in force since January 2013, established different reasons for denying a Cuban citizen the ability to leave the country. Among them are motives of public interest or national security, or being subject to a pending court case, as with the former prisoners of the Black Spring of 2003 who refused to leave the country as a condition of their release, and so remain in Cuba on parole. They, however, were each granted the right to make one trip abroad earlier this year.
A common method to prevent a civil society activist or regime opponent from traveling abroad, is to detain them at a police station on the day they are planning to travel and to release them after their flight has already left.