QCOSTARICA – Cuban immigration authorities prevented Cuban journalist Karla Pérez González from returning to her country, after spending four years studying in Costa Rica and publishing news in various national media.
Pérez said she made it as far as Panama, where at the Tocumen international airport, Copa Airlines employees informed her that, not because of an airline issue or legal requirements, Cuban immigration ordered that she is prohibited from entering her native country.
Karla arrived in Costa Rica in 2017, after she was expelled from Cuba’s university system accused of being part of a “counterrevolutionary” political organization. At the time of her six classmates openly opposed her banishment.
In Costa Rica, Karla was offered a permanent internship by the online news, Elmundo.cr, that would allow her to finish her university studies. In 2020 she finished her degree at the Universidad Latina, and decided to return to Cuba.
“Returning to the country of origin is a human right” Human Rights Watch
After months of waiting for her return to Cuba due to the covid-19 pandemic, on Thursday, March 18. she boarded her flight to Havana with a transfer in Panama, when she got the news that she was prohibited from continuing on to Cuba.
Back in Costa Rica, a woman without a country, she will now request political asylum.
“I am a refugee applicant at the moment, I will have interviews and it will be decided whether or not I deserve the refuge,” said Pérez, 22, after arriving at the Juan Santamaría (San Jose) airport.
“Returning to the country is a human right,” Human Rights Watch director José Miguel Vivanco wrote on Twitter, who “condemned” this “extremely serious abuse” of the Cuban government.
La periodista cubana @Karly_Sut98 está varada en el aeropuerto de Panamá porque el régimen no la deja volver a su país.
Volver al país de origen es un derecho humano.
Mi condena ante este gravísimo abuso.
— José Miguel Vivanco (@JMVivancoHRW) March 18, 2021
“Of course I want to go back to Cuba but, being realistic, I don’t think that opportunity is there,” said Pérez. “My primary dream is to reunite with my family, I don’t care where,” she added. Her parents and her sister live in Cuba.
The communications director of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Yaira Jiménez, questioned the legitimacy of the claim.
“We wonder if it was a legitimate concern for a Cuban citizen, or is it a pretext to put on a show,” she said, although without detailing the reason why Pérez cannot enter the country.
Cuba is targeting independent local journalism initiatives or outside state regulation, considering that many of them, financed by foreign entities critical of the government, seek to destabilize the country.
Jiménez assured that ADN Cuba, the medium for which Pérez is a contributor, is supported by the National Foundation for Democracy (NED), “an agency financed by the United States.”