By Leonard Gildarie
It has been confirmed. A popular Cuban activist described as the ‘Flag Man’ has been expelled to Guyana, in highly controversial circumstances. Police there told him last week that he was being expelled so that he can ask the local US Embassy here to give him a visa.
It would raise alarming questions about Cuba’s tolerance to human rights, at a time when the Spanish-speaking country is under pressure by the US for widespread reforms.
It would also raise questions about that country’s respect for Guyana’s sovereignty, as local authorities were not even aware that the man was here.
The local embassy of Cuba has not responded to requests for a comment on the issue.
Yesterday, Daniel Miranda Llorente, 55, came to Kaieteur News to tell a shocking story of being picked up with a mere handbag, his passport, voter’s ID and a Bible.
He cannot speak English. But he did see a story of his “deportation” to Guyana in Kaieteur News.
He has been residing here since last week, surviving on donations from a few Cubans who recognised him. He has enough money to last him for 10 days, and is hoping for a job.
At the airport in Cuba, he was handed the cash equivalent of US$50 by police personnel and told that where he is going, he would be able to seek closer relations with the US by having them grant a visa. He only knew on the plane that he was en route to Guyana.
Llorente is known for participating in protests and other forms of activism in Cuba wearing a US flag. There are many videos and photos online. He has been arrested several times, jailed and even placed in a hospital to determine whether he is mentally stable.
Dressed in red Chinos and a t-shirt depicting a flag of Cuba and the US and President Donald Trump, Llorente was calm and collected while being interviewed by Kaieteur News and US-based online news, Brietbart.com. It was the same T-shirt, which he was wearing when he was sent here.
He said that in Cuba, he is known as a dissident. He has over time been worrying authorities with his activism fighting the Communist government there. More so for openly stating his respect for US.
Over the years, Llorente was arrested and even went to jail for nine years. Recently, he was even forcibly placed on a tour bus so he would not be present during government-sponsored events. He was locked up for a few days before being released. He was detained again last Thursday at his home. He just managed to grab a handbag and his Bible and a Voter’s ID.
He was taken to the José Martí International Airport and placed on a plane.
On the aircraft, he was given an immigration form, which would have required that he fill out the reasons for the visit in Guyana.
According to Llorente, as he could not speak and write English, he left some parts of the form blank.
He said at the airport, he was stamped in without much questions asked.
He came out, very much lost, and was only saved by a Cuban passenger who gave him money for a night and food at a city guesthouse.
According to Llorente, speaking through the Brietbart translator, he went very much lost.
He was sure of one thing. He wanted the world to know his fate.
He visited the local US Embassy in Kingston, after asking for directions, but was given certain advice on how to proceed. He has met with the local United Nations office here and was advised on the course of action for applying for asylum. He is to meet Red Cross officials today.
His main aim to get his son, 19, also an activist, to safety, and for the US to grant them political asylum. Over the weekend, a Cuban-American met him and gave him enough money for food and lodging for 10 days. He was offered a job to unload a truck of copper and promised $6,000 but was instead paid only $3,000. As of now, he is staying at a Alberttown guesthouse.
According to the Cuban, he does not want to be taken advantage of. He is afraid of being sent back and being placed in jail again, a threat that was made by the police who placed him on the flight. He does not have a telephone and depends on borrowing a phone to make calls.
This past week, after the story broke in the US news, including on Radio Marti, a US-funded Spanish network, Kaieteur News had reached out to the US Embassy, which said it has not officially engaged Llorente.
The Foreign Ministry and police here said that there are no records that he came in.
However, it appeared that the Immigration Office only checked for arrivals after May 17.
There would be questions, if Llorente’s story is true, how he made it through the Timehri airport without stating his reason for a stay in Guyana. The Cuban authorities would also have to explain on how they decided to send Llorente to Guyana. According to the activist yesterday, he is tired of being locked up and harassed for expressing his rights.
Yesterday, the Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Audrey Waddell, said that she will be raising the issue with Cuban Embassy here.
Cuba has several doctors working here and with several Guyanese in that country studying in the medical field.
Hundreds of Cuban traders visit Guyana weekly to shop in the city via a no-visa arrangement.
This single incident may raise many questions, as Guyana, through a team led by acting Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Felix, met with Cuban counterparts to discuss ways to reduce illegal migration.
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