14ymedio, Havana, 2 June 2019 — Cuban authorities prevented the activists Enix Berrio, Alberto de la Nuez, Fernando Palacios and Boris González from boarding flights at Havana’s José Martí International Airport for Panama City, this Sunday. The opponent Abdel Legrá Pacheco was also unable to board his flight to Colombia and the political police arrested the dissident María Elena Mir to prevent her from getting to the airport.
Berrio, De la Nuez, Palacios and González were going to travel to the Panama to participate in a meeting of the Democratic Unity Table (Muad), a coalition of opposition groups and civil society organizations. However, officials of the Directorate of Identification and Immigration and Immigration in Cuba (DIIE) informed them that they are “regulated” — the government’s euphemism for not being allowed to leave the island — González explained to 14ymedio.
“Castroism blocks our exit, as it has blocked our freedom for six decades,” González denounced in his social network account on Facebook, where he also published a photo in which he is seen with Berrio and Legrá a few yards from the points of immigration control at the airport.
Berrio, spokesman for the opposition coalition, explained to this newspaper that the suspension of this trip does not paralyze the organization’s plans. “Muad will hold its meetings separately, one part in Panama and the other in Cuba, so we will continue working,” said the historian and economist.
Another participant in the meeting in Panama, the activist María Elena Mir, was arrested on Saturday by members of the State Security who told her that she could not leave the country. In addition, they blocked her mobile phone until Sunday afternoon so that she could not make or receive calls.
For his part, Legrá, who wanted to travel to Bogotá, also received a refusal at the immigration window. The activist was one of the more than 650 dissidents who presented themselves as candidates for constituency delegates during the People’s Power electoral process in 2017, but State Security pressures blocked them.
In January 2013, an immigration reform came into effect that considerably eased the procedures for traveling outside the Island, eliminating the previously-required “exit permit.” However, over the years the Government of Raúl Castro and, later, that of Miguel Díaz-Canel has lengthened the list of opponents who can not leave the country.
Initially, to prevent them from traveling, State Security used the arbitrary arrests of the dissidents, hours before their planes took off, or intercepted the vehicle in which they were traveling to the airport and kept them detained until their flights had left.
In the last year, however, the strategy of informing them that they are “regulated” when they are about to pass through the immigration window has become more common.
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, based in Havana, has repeatedly denounced the use of travel restrictions as a repressive measure against opponents and activists.
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