Former Colombian President Andres Pastrana and ex-Bolivian President Jorge Quiroga said they were denied entry to Cuba on Wednesday, after traveling to the Communist-run island to receive an award from a local dissident group, Reuters reports:
The conservative former leaders said they were detained at Havana airport on their arrival in the country to receive the award on behalf of the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA), a forum of 37 former presidents and heads of state.
“The Cuban dictatorship deported us today from the island for defending the democratic principles of the region,” Pastrana wrote on Twitter. He also posted a photo of himself and Quiroga aboard a plane (right), flashing an “L” sign with their thumbs and forefingers to signify “libertad” (freedom).
“It’s an arbitrary decision and a huge lack of respect,” said Rosa Maria Paya, the director of the Latin American Network of Young People for Democracy and daughter of the dissident, who died in 2012, LAHT reports:
The Latin American Network bestows the Oswaldo Payá Award for Freedom and Life, and the two ex-presidents, who were scheduled to receive the award in the name of the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA) group, had traveled from Bogota to Havana, where they were detained at the airport for two hours by immigration authorities without being allowed to officially enter the country.
The Communist regime’s actions were condemned by Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States. The award was not only “a fair and deserved tribute to IDEA, he said, but “a tribute to a free Cuban, whose life was marked by opposition to totalitarianism.”
“To silence the voice of the people, to stop them from deciding their own future is neither revolutionary nor leftist,” he added. “The left that is a point of reference, for me, is the one that faced dictatorships demanding the rights of the people.”
Almagro (with Rosa Maria Paya, right) last month described the Castro regime as “the worst kind of dictatorship” and urged OAS member nations to reject “a non-democratic succession” in Cuba, the Miami Herald adds:
He also offered his support to the campaign for a plebiscite known as Cubadecide and led by Rosa María Payá. She has urged the international community to refuse to recognize the new National Assembly and Council of State because they are not directly elected by voters.
Several dissidents also have launched the campaign “Más castrismo para qué” (More Castro rule for what? – see above) to denounce what they allege is an “electoral farce” that would allow Castro family members to retain the reins of power.
Foreign dignitaries were also denied entry to Cuba last year when the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy, a dissident group critical of Cuba’s government, awarded its international prize for human rights and democracy on the island for the first time, Reuters adds.