14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 5 January 2022 — After 24 hours of uncertainty at the San Salvador airport, where they arrived “fleeing terror” in Cuba, independent journalists Esteban Rodríguez and Héctor Luis Valdés have been admitted to El Salvador, “while they are given humanitarian assistance and their immigration status is resolved,” according to local authorities.
The two Cubans were interviewed by the director of the Department of Migration, Ricardo Cucalón, in the presence of the human rights attorney, Apolonio Tobar. They have left the International Airport to go to the capital, where “they will be supported with accommodation and food.”
At the San Salvador airport, Tobar had declared to the German television station Deutsche Welle that “government institutions” had been called on to bring the activists food and added that he would talk with them to find out “what is the situation and what is their destination.”
“We have been stranded here for more than 36 hours at the San Salvador airport after the Nicaraguan regime denied us entry to their country,” Tobar told the local newspaper El Mundo, after leaving the Valdés Cocho air terminal, and he thanked president Nayib Bukele who intends to help them and the Department of Migration for the “excellent treatment.”
Esteban Rodríguez, for his part, told reporters that he was in Cuba’s Combinado del Este prison and that he was taken from there “to be expelled from Cuba… They have forced me to leave the country,” he said, “for wanting to think differently, for wanting to practice independent journalism.”
“I had been under torture for eight months, in dark places, I was under threat of death all the time,” denounced Rodríguez, who said that he still had the marks of the handcuffs with which he had been transferred directly from the prison to the airport.
Valdés Cocho explained that “several NGOs” helped him “pay for the passage” and thus “achieve the release (of Esteban) since State Security constantly threatened to leave him suffering harassment in Combinado del Este.”
“We don’t even know what legal status we have, we have requested help and we have received it,” he said.
This morning, Valdés Cocho published a post on Facebook reporting that he and Rodríguez had been forced “to make the decision to leave” the country “bound for Nicaragua,” although he added that his intention was to stay there for a few days, to end up arriving at a place where many Cubans arrive “fleeing the terror perpetuated by a totalitarian system.”
However, according to their testimony, the route had a stopover at the Tocumen airport (Panama), from where they had to fly to El Salvador before continuing to Managua. It was at that point, upon arriving at the San Salvador airport, when they were called by the loudspeaker to inform them that Nicaragua, governed by a partner of the Cuban regime, Daniel Ortega, was rejecting them.
Valdés Cocho also said that Cuban State Security had taken both of them to the airport and told them that they were expelled and that they could never return to Cuba.
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