According to Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Karen Cummings, the Cuban Government has denied allegations that its security forces are exiling dissidents to Guyana.
Cummings said that while she has seen the media reports both local and international which allege that the practice is occurring the government have “basically denied it” and Guyanese authorities have not seen those making the complaints.
“I know there are several Cubans in Guyana who have travelled here to secure visas to the United States but we are looking for those persons who claimed to have been exiled. We haven’t seen them,” she told Stabroek News via phone yesterday. Cummings who is currently out of the jurisdiction has promised a more detailed explanation of the situation upon her return.
Cummings’ statements were supported by Minister of Citizenship Winston Felix who indicated that only one case was brought to the attention of local authorities and that case is currently being investigated by the police.
“We don’t if anyone has been exiled. We know one person who says he was and that is being investigated. If there are other names immigration would be able to provide information on arrivals,” Felix indicated.
Cuban Prisoners Defenders, a non-governmental organization (NGO) with links to Cuba’s largest opposition group, has identified Guyana as the main location where Cuba’s state security is exiling dissidents in its attempt to weaken opposition on the island.
Last Wednesday the group told a press conference that they had compiled a 259-page report that named 35 activists, independent journalists and artists whom they say authorities forced to leave the country over the past two years, telling them never to return. Stabroek News reached out to the group for a copy of the report in its entirety but up to press time had received no response.
The NGO which according to Reuters has links to the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) was formed last year and registered as a non-governmental human rights organization.
The Reuters’ report of the press conference notes that more than a third of the 26 activists who responded to the NGOs online survey said they were escorted to the airport by state security and forced into exile.
“Some were given boarding passes, typically for flights to Guyana where Cubans can get a tourist visa on arrival, and money for their first month,” it said.
According to the NGO those exiled report that they were threatened with prison or bodily harm if they did not leave and their families harassed.
“We have found a variety of cases. Cases where the activist cannot be broken and is put on a plane, cases where the activist has a weak point, through their child or mother, and they attack there hard, leading the activist to give in and he goes to Guyana to beg,” Cuban Prisoners Defenders representative and UNPACU member Javier Larrondo told the news conference in Madrid.
One of the activists mentioned in Wednesday’s report, Eliecer Góngora Izaguirre, spoke with Reuters via telephone from Costa Rica and indicated that state security had escorted him to the airport to board a flight to Guyana in February, forcing him to leave behind his four children and wife.
“I intend to get to the United States because it is the country that most offers us security,” the 37-year-old reportedly said.
Previously he had been imprisoned for six months and his family had faced continuous harassment for his activism in UNPACU that included having their home expropriated and his children being taunted at school, he added.
A Havana-based western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the news agency that the state tended to pressure little-known activists rather than high-profile figures, which would be more likely to spark international outcry.
Góngora Izaguirre said that from Guyana, he crossed the border to Brazil and Peru, from where he started a perilous trek north on buses and by foot, through jungle and across rivers through Ecuador, Colombia and Panama to Costa Rica.
He knows finding refuge in the United States will be hard because the Trump administration has cracked down on asylum seekers.
“I’m not going to give up the fight,” he said. “I’ll only give it up when I’m dead.”