14ymedio, Havana, 7 January 2021 — “We are going to support them to do whatever they want to do,” says the Foreign Minister of El Salvador Alexandra Hill in relation to independent journalists Esteban Rodríguez and Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho, who were admitted to the Central American country last Wednesday after being forced to leave Cuba.
The position of the Government of El Salvador towards the reporters occurred after it was learned that President Nayib Bukele took an interest in them and gave the indication that they be allowed to enter El Salvador, Hill told the Nuevo Herald on Friday .
“We are doing everything humanly and institutionally possible to welcome them, to give them all the alternative solutions,” explained the diplomat. The diplomat added that staying in her country was an alternative and that the journalists “cannot and do not want to return to Cuba.”
“Anyone exiled from their own country is abominable to us and is an example of what the Cuban regime is doing with its own citizens.”
In the few hours that they have spent in El Salvador, they received a medical check-up and have had conversations with the Foreign Ministry.
At dawn on January 4, Valdés and Rodríguez, reporters for the independent newspaper ADN Cuba and members of the San Isidro Movement, boarded a Copa flight in Havana that made a stopover in Panama City. Their final destination was Nicaragua, but at the Panamanian airport, they were informed that they would not be allowed to enter Managua.
The air route also had a stopover in El Salvador before continuing to Nicaragua. At the terminal in the Salvadoran capital, more than 24 hours passed before the authorities decided to admit them “while they were being given humanitarian assistance and their immigration situation was resolved.”
Esteban Rodríguez had spent eight months in prison since, on April 30, 2021, he tried, along with other protesters, to approach the house of artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who was on a hunger strike. When the police tried to block them, the group started a sit-in to protest against what they considered a limitation of their right to free movement, but they were arrested.
Cuban authorities took Rodríguez to the Havana airport early Tuesday morning directly from prison. Valdés said that he was also taken to the same terminal, where they were both told that they were expelled and that they could never return to Cuba.
The journalists reported that they were forced to make the decision to leave their country and that their intention was to stay in Nicaragua for a few days before ending up at the place where many Cubans arrive “fleeing the terror perpetuated by a totalitarian system.”
Upon leaving the Salvadoran airport, Valdés wrote on his Twitter account along with a photo that recorded the moment: “This was the image where a nightmare created by a system lacking ethical and civic principles like the Cuban regime ended. Thanks to President Nayib Bukele for his solidarity at a time when we were not seeing any light. Thanks to the Salvadoran people. Thank you.”
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