|IAPA concerned over revocation of Cuban journalist’s visa|
Miami (July 23, 2004).- The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) sent a complaint to the U.S. State Department on the revocation of political refugee status previously granted to Cuban independent journalist, Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, who spent six years in prison convicted of “desacato,” insulting a public official.
In a letter signed by the chairman of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Rafael Molina, to the coordinator of the Cuban Affairs Desk at the State Department, the IAPA expressed its concern and surprise regarding the decision of U.S. officials to cancel the visa for Arévalo Padrón and his wife, Libertad Acosta Díaz.
Following is the main text of the letter:
“The Inter American Press Association, representing more than 1,300 newspapers and magazines throughout the Western Hemisphere in defending freedom of the press, expresses its concern and surprise regarding the decision of U.S. officials to revoke the visa, without right of appeal, of independent journalist Bernardo Arévalo Padrón and his wife, Libertad Acosta Diaz, after having been granted permission to travel and remain in the country as political refugees.
“This surprises us because Arévalo Padrón served a six-year prison sentence in Cuba for exercising his right of freedom of expression and of the press, a sentence that during recent years and at the request of another imprisoned journalist, Raúl Rivero, regional vice chairman of press freedom and IAPA director, our organization, along with other international press associations, denounced and demanded his freedom. Mr. Arévalo Padrón is the journalist who has spent the most years in prison. He was released on November 13, 2003, only two days prior to finishing his sentence.
“As you know, in 1997 Arévalo Padrón founded in Cienfuegos province the independent journalists’ agency “Línea Sur Press” and in November of that same year was tried and sentenced for “insult” for describing President Fidel Castro and Vice President Carlos Lage as “liars.” During his time in captivity at Ariza prison in Cienfuegos he suffered poor treatment that affected his health.
“In direct communication with the IAPA, Mr. Arévalo Padrón informed us that on June 30 he was called to the U.S. Special Interests Section in Havana where he was told that his asylum request had been granted. The journalist had permission from Cuban officials to leave the country. He was planning to travel on August 25, and his trip would take him to his final destination of Fort Worth, Texas, after spending three days in Miami where he would be meeting with the IAPA.
“After contacting an employee at the U.S. Special Interests Section in Havana on July 20 to inquire about the reasons for revoking the visa, the IAPA was told that for protection of the law they could not provide that information. The journalist assured the IAPA that when he tried to find out the reason for the decision made on July 14, he was treated rudely and was not provided any answers.
“We kindly request that you reconsider this decision considering Mr. Arévalo Padrón has been one more victim of intolerance by the Cuban government, and as a result, is in a state of limbo that could give rise to unforeseen consequences Likewise, we ask that you provide us the reasons the consular officers reversed their decision on Mr. Arévalo Padrón’s status as a political refugee.”