Cuban Government Blocks Several Guests From Entering Cuba For The Oswaldo Payá Award / 14ymedio

The former Chilean Ministry Mariana Aylwin could not board the plane that would take her to Havana on Monday. (Youtube)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 February 2017 – The Cuban government has mobilized in the last hours to prevent several guests from arriving in Havana to attend to Oswaldo Paya Award ceremony, scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, at 11:00 am. Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon has been the most recent to make public that Cuban immigration authorities did not allow him to enter the country.

“We are informed by Immigration of Cuba that passenger FCH is not authorized to enter Cuba and request that he not be documented on flight AM451”, Calderón published in his Twitter account transmitting the message that the Aeromexico airline gave him.

For the moment, Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confined itself to regretting the decision of the Cuban government not to allow the entry into its territory of the ex-president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, through the Ministry’s official Twitter account.

Calderón is the third case known today, after those of independent journalists Sol García Basulto and Henry Constantin Ferreiro, who were prevented from traveling from Camagüey to Havana. In addition Mariana Aylwin, a former Chilean Minister, was prevented from boarding a plane in Chile to travel to the Cuban capital on Monday, to collect the posthumous award for her father, former President Patricio Aylwin.

The entry veto augurs diplomatic consequences, as Bachelet’s government has already announced that it will call Chile’s ambassador on the island to protest the decision. “The Government of Chile deeply regrets the situation that has affected former minister and former parliamentarian Mariana Aylwin being prevented from traveling to Cuba,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“The problem was fundamentally the visit of Almagro. I had my tourist visa. I had problems checking in and I went to the airport early, where they told me I was would not be admitted to Cuba,” Aylwin told 14ymedio.

The Cuban government notified the Chilean Foreign Ministry that her visit was not welcome. However, Mariana Aylwin no longer holds positions in the Chilean Administration. “As I do not represent the Government, I decided to go as many democrats came to support our struggle during the dictatorship,” she explained.

The former secretary of state explained that she would receive the award given to her father “for the defense of democratic values.”

“It’s an arbitrary act, I deeply regret it because my dad opened diplomatic relations with Cuba and now they do this,” she said. Aylwin described what happened as an “act of a dictatorship and incomprehensible in the 21st century,” and recalled “when, during the time of Pinochet, there were many Democrats who wanted to come to give us their solidarity who also could not enter Chile.”

“That is the difference of a democracy and a dictatorship. They are afraid of everything that opposes them in their arbitrary desires, they own the truth, they impose themselves by force,” she said, although she admits that the country’s situation hurts more than her personally. “It hurts me a lot more that there is repression in Cuba than that I am prevented from coming. Be of good cheer!!! There are many of us who are with you,” she told this newspaper.

Rosa María Payá, daughter of the late opponent Oswaldo Payá, has denounced the decision taken by the Cuban Government and has made public the document delivered to the former Chilean minister at the airport. The text reads “Do not approve nor send the passenger [Mariana Aylwin] who is inadmissible in Cuba.”

Payá, who leads the initiative Cuba Decides, which calls for holding a plebiscite on the island to initiate a transition to democracy, lamented what happened and added that “now more than ever we have to work to recover our nation hijacked by an elite never chosen by anyone.”

In addition to these actions, travel bans have also been imposed on journalists Henry Constantin Ferreiro and Sol García Basulto. Garcia Basulto, a correspondent for 14ymedio in Camagüey, was detained until six o’clock in the morning, while Constantin Ferreiro is still being held.

García Basulto explained that both were arrested inside Ignacio Agramonte International Airport when they were preparing to take a flight to Havana that departed at midnight Monday. Police seized her “cell phone and several documents” that she carried with her, she explained via telephone.

After the arrest, García Basulto was transferred to the third Police Station in the Montecarlo District, where she remained until being released shortly before dawn.

Last November, the Garcia Basulto remained under house arrest for several days while the caravan with the ashes of former President Fidel Castro was traveling across the country. On that occasion State Security agents guarded her door to prevent her from leaving.

Constantin Ferreiro’s mother declared at midday that from seven in the evening on Monday, “the police had set up an operation around the house but he had already left for the airport.”

Independent journalists Sol García Basulto and Henry Constantín Ferreiro. (14ymedio)

Constantín, who was named last December as regional vice president for Cuba for the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), also serves as director of the magazine La Hora de Cuba and at the time of his appointment at the IAPA he committed to disseminate ” The reality of journalism “in the island. The organization has issued a press release condemning Constantin’s detention, demanding his immediate release and calling on the Cuban government to guarantee freedom of the press and expression.

In addition, Rosa María Payá informed 14ymedio that Cuba Decides coordinators in Holguin Province, Julio Cesar Alvarez and Felix Fara, were arrested on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Payá said that Álvarez was arrested “just after” she called him to invite him to tomorrow’s event.

Thanks to some relatives of the activists, she learned that they are still being detained as of Monday at the Holguín City Security Unit and that their wives were warned not to approach the place to find out anything because they would also be detained.

The first ceremony of the Oswaldo Payá “Liberty and Life” Award is scheduled for Wednesday, and Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, and, posthumously Patricio Aylwin Constantín, will be honored.

The award recognizes “persons or institutions, whose career or concrete action have highlighted the effective promotion and defense of human rights, life and democracy.” The award is a project of the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy, led by Rosa Maria Payá. The entity brings together members of civil society, political parties and student organizations in more than twenty countries in the region.