The Last of Those Arrested on Obispo Street, Esteban Rodriguez, Exits Cuba ‘Fleeing Terror’

Esteban Rodríguez and Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho at the airport in El Salvador. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 5 January 2022 — Journalist Esteban Rodríguez, detained in Combinado del Este prison until Tuesday for participating in the protest on Obispo street is in El Salvador with his colleague Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho after Nicaragua refused them entry. Both are reporters for the Cuban independent daily, ADN, and members of the San Isidro Movement.

Tuesday night, 14ymedio learned of the release of Inti Soto and Ángel Cuza, the only activists that remained in jail with Rodríguez for protesting on April 30th, and attempted to contact Valdés Cocho for information about the last of the detainees, who apparently remained awaiting release; however, his cellular phone was off.

Very early this morning, Valdés Cocho published a post on Facebook recounting how both were forced to “take the decision to abandon our country, destined for Nicaragua,” although he adds that his intention was to remain there only for a few days to end up in the same place as many Cubans “fleeing the terror perpetuated by a totalitarian system.”

However, according to his statement, the route included a layover in the Tocumen airport (Panama), from there they were to fly to El Salvador before continuing on to Managua. It was at that point, upon their arrival in the San Salvador airport, that they were called through the loudspeakers and informed that Nicaragua, governed by an associate of the Cuban regime, Daniel Ortega, rejected them.

“They never provided an explanation, much less a possible solution to this problem that emerged. Stranded in San Salvador, in migratory limbo and without considering a return to our country due to the imminent threat of arrest [CHECK: I’m never how to process that word “procesarnos”]  if we did,” said Valdés Cocho.

According to the reporter, Rodríguez was taken to the Havana airport straight from prison, with sores on his feet from the shackles, in the early morning hours on Wednesday. He assured that he was also driven to the same terminal where both were told they were being expelled and could never return to Cuba.

“Here we are; without any solutions, without money, without food and imploring the Salvadorean Government or any democratic country; to offer assistance,” he writes.

According to his account, they had not received a response from the immigration authorities of El Salvador, nor to the asylum application they submitted.

Esteban Rodríguez has spent the last eight months in prison, since April 30, 2021, when he attempted, along with other protesters, to approach the house where artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was on a hunger strike.  When police tried to impede their passage, the group initiated a sit-in to protest what they considered a limitation of their freedom of movement, but they were arrested.

Of the six activists who were sent to prison for those acts, Mary Karla Ares was released in May and Thais Mailén Franco Benítez and Yuisan Cancio in September.

With Tuesday’s release of Inti Soto and Ángel Cuza, only Rodríguez remained in the Combinado del Este prison where he said he was subjected to torture, isolation in punishment cells under sub-human conditions.

Rodríguez also participated in the Facebook live stream, where he denounced not being able to say goodbye to his family. “They were eight months under a tremendous hell, I always thought that the next time I’d live stream it would be from my Havana, in my Cuba, with the people from my neighborhood. Not in this way, having to exit my country, simply because I fear for my life.”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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