MEXICO CITY.- Cuban activist Raúl Soublett and his mother-in-law, Damayí Valdés Cocho, mother of journalist Héctor Luis Valdés, are stranded in Panama, where immigration authorities withheld their passports and threaten to return them to Cuba.
“When we were about to board the flight to Nicaragua, the ticket reader did not accept our tickets and the immigration authorities immediately took us away,” the activist explained exclusively to CubaNet. As they were notified in Panama, it was Nicaragua that did not authorize the entry of both to its territory.
This is not the first time that the Daniel Ortega dictatorship, in complicity with the Havana regime, has prevented journalists or dissidents from entering its territory. In this case, the prohibition also fell on Dayamí Valdés, Raúl’s mother-in-law, despite the fact that she has no direct link with the opposition. So the activist blames the Cuban government, the same one that allowed them to leave the country after days of blackmail, for sharing his data with his ally in Central America to make it difficult for him to cross.
In December 2021, the scientist and opponent Oscar Casanella, who was traveling with his pregnant wife and four-year-old son, was also not allowed to enter Nicaragua.
A month later the pattern was repeated. Former political prisoner and reporter Esteban Rodríguez was taken from jail to the José Martí airport. Exile or prison, the Cuban political police told him before allowing him to leave the country together with his friend Héctor Luis Valdés, Raúl’s partner. At that moment Esteban and Héctor lived the same scene that Soublett describes today. In the stopover country they were not allowed to board the next flight because once again Nicaragua, following orders from Havana, did not give them access.
Raúl Soublett and his mother-in-law are currently at the disposal of the Panamanian authorities without any clarity as to their fate.
On September 9, Soublett announced on his Facebook wall that Alianza Afro-Cubana, a project he had led since November 2017, would be dissolved. At that time he declared that it was a personal decision, not motivated by external pressures. However, the activist has explained to CubaNet that his resignation from the project was the product of threats from State Security.
“They forced me to film a video where I recounted the funds that Alianza Afrocubana received and details of the project. I was very afraid and I complied”, explained Raúl from the Tocumen airport.
According to the activist, the political police learned of his intentions to leave Cuba to meet with his partner, Héctor Luis Valdés, and forced him to publicly resign and film himself, because that was the only way they would lift the ban on his departure.
“They told me that if I return to the country they will use the video, which I filmed under duress, to jail me for the origin of the funds.”
Indeed, the defender and fighter for the rights of Afro-descendant and LGBTIQ+ people could be prosecuted for allegedly attacking State Security by receiving foreign funds. The new Cuban Penal Code in its article 143 contemplates penalties of between four and 10 years in prison for this.
The harassment of Raúl Soublett has been constant in recent years, even leading him to self-harm in February 2021. After four hours of interrogation, where they threatened to expel him from the university, harm his family and personal projects, Raúl hit his head with a glass cup as the only way out to end the psychological torture to which he was subjected.
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