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Immigration

Bukele expresses support for Cuban reporters forced into exile

Esteban Rodríguez and Héctor Valdés, contributors to ADN Cuba, were exiled from Cuba and prevented from flying to Nicaragua.

El presidente Nayib Bukele, dio instrucciones a la Dirección de Migración y Extranjería para dar “apoyo” a los reporteros cubanos Héctor Valdés y Esteban Rodríguez.
El presidente Nayib Bukele, dio instrucciones a la Dirección de Migración y Extranjería para dar “apoyo” a los reporteros cubanos Héctor Valdés y Esteban Rodríguez. | Twitter Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos

January 5, 2022 9:03pm

Updated: January 6, 2022 8:16am

The president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, instructed the General Directorate of Migration and Foreigners to "support" Cuban independent reporters and contributors to AND Cuba Héctor Luis Valdés and Esteban Rodríguez, who were forced into exile by the Cuban regime.

"The Director of Migration said they have instructions from the president to give them the support they require so that they can calm down, feel safe, and then study their case for regularization," stated Apolonio Tobar, head of the Attorney General's Office for the Defense of Human Rights, according to a report by El Faro.

Los periodistas cubanos @HectorValdes_91 y Esteban Rodríguez acaban de salir del aeropuerto de #ElSalvador, acompañados por el director de Migración, Ricardo Cucalón, y el procurador de DDHH Apolonio Tobar. Se dirigen a un hotel para descansar. @_elfaro_ pic.twitter.com/okeJ2ZbD12

— Nelson Rauda Zablah (@raudaz_) January 5, 2022

After being stranded for 36 hours, Valdés and Rodríguez left the Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport "accompanied by the director of Migration, Ricardo Cucalón, and the Human Rights attorney Apolonio Tobar. They are heading to a hotel to rest," El Faro journalist Nelson Rauda Zablah reported on Twitter.

"A Cuban citizen is expelled for wanting to practice independent, free journalism, for censoring journalism", said Esteban Rodríguez to the press who interviewed them on the spot. Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho thanked El Salvador’s president "for his willingness to help."

On January 5, both journalists reported their forced exile from the island by the repressive forces of the Cuban regime. They were stranded at the Salvadoran airport because the Daniel Ortega regime denied them entry to Nicaragua, where their flight was headed.

“El director de Migración dijo que tienen instrucciones del presidente (@nayibbukele) para darles el apoyo que requieran para que se tranquilicen, se sientan seguros y luego estudien su caso para su regularización”, dijo Apolonio Tobar, titular de @PDDHElSalvador pic.twitter.com/ivVgE5H4im

— Nelson Rauda Zablah (@raudaz_) January 5, 2022

Rodríguez was released from prison on January 4, where he spent eight months without a trial for peacefully demonstrating, according to a Facebook post by Valdés Cocho.

"Eight months in which his body was subjected until the last minute to torture, confinement in punishment cells with subhuman conditions; a whole wave of repression for the simple fact of thinking with his own head. What else can I tell you about all that I have been suffering for the two years that I have been practicing journalism in a free manner", posted the reporter.

Valdés claimed the Cuban regime forced them to leave Cuba and head to Nicaragua in exchange for the release of Esteban Rodriguez

"Esteban was taken to the airport early yesterday morning, just like me. Esteban still has the marks left by the so-called Shakiras on his feet. All that time the tears were not lacking; they were there remembering that we were expelled and that we could never return," he added in his testimony.

After a  layover at Tocumen Airport in Panama, the two journalists made it to El Salvador without major setbacks. In El Salvador, they were supposed to board another plane to Nicaragua. However, they were told that the Castro-allied regime of Daniel Ortega refused to allow them to enter its territory.

"We were never given an explanation, much less a possible solution to this problem we had. We were stranded in San Salvador, in a migratory limbo and without the idea of returning to our land due to the imminent threat of prosecution if we did so," he added.