Cubans Hector Valdes and Esteban Rodriguez are Missing

Independent journalists Esteban Rodríguez and Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho shortly after being admitted to El Salvador. (Twitter / @ R_Cucalon)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 January 2022 — Cuban reporters Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho and Esteban Rodríguez are missing. The General Directorate of Migration and Foreigners of El Salvador, where they arrived on January 4 from Havana, published a statement on Tuesday in which they reported that both abandoned the process of requesting refuge in that country.

The text details that on January 6, both, “on a voluntary basis,” had requested to the Secretariat of the Commission for the Determination of the Status of Refugees, with which the Salvadoran authorities activated the protocols of “protection and humanitarian assistance due to their vulnerable condition “and notified the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner (UNHCR).

In their request, the statement continues, Valdés and Rodríguez “exposed the situation of political persecution for which they were forced to leave their country, alleging torture, intimidation, threats and other harassment towards them and their families.”

Neither of them, however, appeared at the refugee hearing set for this Monday. The appointment was rescheduled for this Tuesday, but they did not appear at that time either, and the process was closed “due to abandonment of the case by the interested parties.”

“As part of the protocol for the protection of refugee applicants, an attempt was made to locate them in the accommodation that was offered by the Government of El Salvador after their arrival in the country, but they were not there and their location is unknown until now,” the letter specifies.

El Salvador had admitted the two activists to its territory after they were stranded at the capital’s airport, allegedly  because both were rejected from entering Nicaragua.

On the same January 4 at dawn, Rodríguez had been released from Combinado del Este, the maximum security prison where he was detained for the protests on Obispo Street, Havana, on April 30, and driven in handcuffs, always according to his testimony, to the José Martí airport with Valdés.

Then, Valdés published a post on his Facebook account, suspended today, in which he reported that both were forced “to make the decision” to leave the island “bound for Nicaragua,” although he added that his intention was to stay there for a few days. He alluded, without specifying, to finally landing at the “place where many Cubans arrive fleeing the terror perpetuated by a totalitarian system.” That is, the United States.

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 say that they were called by the loudspeaker to inform them that Nicaragua, governed by a partner of the Cuban regime, Daniel Ortega, was rejecting them.


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