Ex-Bolivian, Colombian presidents say denied entry to Cuba
Former Colombian President Andres Pastrana and ex-Bolivian President Jorge Quiroga said they were denied entry to Cuba on Wednesday, after travelling to the Communist-run island to receive an award from a local dissident group.
The conservative former leaders said they were detained at Havana airport on their arrival in the country to receive the award on behalf of the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA), a forum of 37 former presidents and heads of state.
"The Cuban dictatorship deported us today from the island for defending the democratic principles of the region," Pastrana wrote on Twitter. He also posted a photo of himself and Quiroga aboard a plane, flashing an "L" sign with their thumbs and forefingers to signify "libertad" (freedom).
The Cuban foreign ministry declined to comment on the incident. But the Communist Party newspaper Granma accused IDEA, in an editorial Wednesday headlined "Prizes, provocations and failed ideas," of seeking to sabotage "progressive projects" across Latin America.
"As in 2017, the delivery of the prize is accompanied by a plan to stage a provocation in the Cuban capital this week, create instability and damage the country's international image," Granma wrote.
FILE PHOTO - Bolivia's former President Jorge Quiroga greets journalists at his arrival to a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares
Foreign dignitaries were also denied entry to Cuba last year when the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy, a dissident group critical of Cuba's government, awarded its international prize for human rights and democracy on the island for the first time.
Cuba brands dissidents as mercenaries, funded by foreign governments and exiles and out to topple the government.