Cuban Dissident: Regime Says No Travel Visas for Protesters Until Americas Summit Ends

Cuba's dissident Guillermo Farinas speaks with an unidentified man outside his home in San
AP Photo/Javier Galeano

Cuban pro-democracy activist Guillermo Fariñas announced via Twitter on Wednesday that communist authorities told a fellow dissident that no individual known to oppose the Castro regime will be allowed to engage in “visa procedures” until the Summit of the Americas ends next month.

Fariñas, a psychologist by trade, is a recipient of the European Parliament’s Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and has completed over 20 hunger strikes against the communist Castro regime.

“The directors of counter-intelligence at MININT [the Ministry of the Interior] prevented Benito Fojaco from traveling to the Argentine consulate in Havana to begin visa procedures,” Fariñas tweeted. “Fojaco Iser had been invited by non-governmental organizations in Argentina to participate in various workshops on civil struggle. He was arrested and sent to the Cienfuegos UPICO [Provincial Unit for Criminal Investigations and Operations], where he was denied food despite being diabetic.”

According to Fariñas, Fojaco was told “that no opponent to Castro-Raulism will be allowed to engage in any visas procedures until the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, between 13 and 14 April, concluded.”

The Spain-based Diario de Cuba, citing Fariñas’ group United Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU) and local reporters, reported on Fojaco Iser’s arrest Wednesday. The dissident was reportedly arrested on his way to riding a bus from Cienfuegos to Havana to the Argentine embassy, as Fariñas noted. Eyewitnesses say Fojaco was beaten by plain-clothes state security and hauled off in an unmarked black car. Upon his release 14 hours later, police forced him to pay a $200 fine, the exact amount of money that a visa to Argentina would have cost.

The Castro regime appears to be preemptively intimidating dissidents out of attempting to participate in the Summit of the Americas, a forum to which Cuba has only been invited once before due to its record as a repressive authoritarian regime. That time, in 2015, Cuban police violently attacked dissidents who traveled to Panama to raise awareness of human rights violations on the island. The Cuban representatives at the summit ultimately left in disgust after other representatives at the summit brought up the issue of the growing socialist humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, a government Havana nearly completely controls.

This year, Venezuela’s dictator Nicolás Maduro has been disinvited for violently cracking down on political dissidents, dissolving the democratically elected legislature, and announcing sham elections in which he will be running only against other leftists. Maduro has promised to travel to Lima and crash the summit anyway and lied about receiving an invitation from Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Peru’s president until last week.

President Donald Trump is expected to attend the summit as well, his first visit to Latin America as president. Trump has vocally opposed both the regimes in Caracas and Havana.

In an apparent attempt to prevent a similar embarrassment, Raúl Castro’s regime has apparently begun spreading the word among the dissident community that they are banned from attempting to leave the country to engage in similar activism to that of 2015, as well as being silenced domestically if they engage in free speech. During a summit called the “Thinking Americas” forum held in Havana last week, a group of communist officials agreed to unite against the presence of “citizens of Cuban origin and mercenary organizations,” meaning anti-communists, at the Summit of the Americas.

Dissident organizations appear undeterred by the threats.

“We will be there presenting not only what the situation is in Cuba, but what proposals these heads of state should be supporting,” Rosa María Payá, the head of the Cuba Decide movement demanding free and fair elections, said of the Summit of the Americas. Payá warned that, given the high number of pro-democracy and right-wing leaders attending the Summit, “the only objective that [the Castro regime] has is for the summit to be a failure, for the message of those who struggle for the freedom of Cuba and other places in the region to not be heard.”

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