By Leonard Gildarie
Claims by a Cuban activist that he was arrested and forcibly sent to Guyana more than a week ago has the attenti
on of the Government of Guyana which will conduct an investigation, Minister Winston Felix said Friday.
Felix, who has responsibilities for the Department of Citizenship, made the comments while being questioned about how the issue is being dealt with.
Daniel Llorente, 55, a Cuban activist who has been arrested and jailed numerous times in Cuba for participating in protests and angering his government with his open affection for the US, is in Guyana.
This past week he complained to Kaieteur News and US media houses that he was illegally detained, and placed on a plane to Guyana.
He has nowhere to go and little money left.
He was allegedly told by Cuban police that he was being sent here to ask the US embassy for a visa.
The police, Llorente claimed, told him never to return to Cuba or he will be “disappeared”.
On Friday, Felix admitted the matter is a perplexing one.
“We are looking into the matter. We cannot fathom what is going on, unless we do a detailed interview with the gentleman, and bearing in mind the language problem, we have to be cautious.”
Llorente, through a translator, was at the Red Cross office, Kingston, to file for protection.
He said he is planning to visit the Department of Citizenship this week.
However, according to Felix, it may not be the right time for his office to be engaged.
“This is an issue that is international. We cannot deal with it. We are independent of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
According to the minister, the Government of Guyana will be “sympathetic and humane” towards the activist.
“When we understand the situation, we will make the right decisions. In the meantime, we will be sympathetic to him. Our general attitude is to be sympathetic and humane to his case. I cannot make any other statements at this time. We will allow the process to fl
ow until we fully understand the issues to make the proper decision.”
Llorente has met with the local United Nations office and engaged the US embassy to make his case.
He is very well known in Cuba where for years his activism has seen him arrested and jailed.
There are numerous videos of him being interviewed and photos of him participating in protests.
Torment to Cuba
Perhaps, none was more famous than when he used a US flag to run across an open area, in full glare of cameras, while the government of Cuba was observing Labour Day activities.He was taken away.
The US has slapped sanctions on Cuba, for decades now. Thousands of Cubans live in the US.
Relations between the two countries are still cold.
Llorente claimed he once was even forcibly placed on a tour bus to prevent him at one time from participating in protests.
He told of instances where he would just be picked up shortly before an event and kept in lockups until it is finished.
On Friday, the US embassy in Georgetown confirmed that it is being engaged in the matter involving Llorente.
The Cuban embassy, on High Street, has not issued a statement on the matter or responded to questions.
Llorente had never been to Guyana.
In essence, he was kicked out of his own country just over a week ago.
However, Llorente on Thursday said that it is his intentions to ask the US for political asylum as he is fearful of what would happen to him if he is sent back to Cuba.
As part of a process to ask for protection, on Friday, Llorente visited the Red Cross headquarters in Kingston where he was asked to do certain paper works.
He was accompanied by Luis Hernández Martín, owner of a coffee shop in Cuba, who was forced to leave because of pressure from his government.
Calls to the Cuban embassy several times on Friday went unanswered.
A staffer who asked that the news link from the US be sent to her Whatsapp number last week did not respond although she read the message.
The Cuban embassy itself has not issued a statement responding to Llorente’s claims that his country illegally expelled him to Guyana.
On Monday, a US online news, Brietbart.com reported that Llorente known as the ‘Flag Man’, in Cuba, was sent from his country to Guyana in highly controversial circumstances. Brietbart picked up the story from Radio Marti, a US-funded news outlet that Llorente complained to hours after he said he arrived here.
It would raise alarming questions about Cuba’s in 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.
He has been residing here, 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.
He was detained two Thursdays ago at his home by state police. 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.
No evidence of entering?
According to Llorente, as he could not speak and write English, he left some parts of the form blank.
He said at the airport at Timehri, in Guyana, 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.
At the time of his alleged arrest, he was wearing a T-shirt depicting the flag of Cuba and the US and President Donald Trump.
The Foreign Ministry and police here had initially said that there are no records that he came in.
However, it appeared that the Immigration Office only checked for arrivals after May 17.
According to the activist, he is tired of being locked up and harassed for expressing his rights.
He is asking for temporary protection in Guyana and maybe a temporary job.
On Thursday, the Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Audrey Waddell, said that she will be raising the issue with Cuban Embassy here.
Guyana has close relations with Cuba, with a ongoing agreement for training for medical students and the sending of doctors here to work in hospitals.
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