Employees of the San Oscar Romero International Airport, in El Salvador, are seen on March 12, 2020. El Salvador recently allowed Cuban journalists Esteban Rodríguez and Héctor Luis Valdés, who were stranded in the airport, to enter the country. (AFP/Marvin Recinos)

CPJ welcomes El Salvador’s acceptance of 2 journalists expelled from Cuba

Miami, January 6, 2022 – Salvadoran authorities should continue providing support to Cuban journalists Esteban Rodríguez and Héctor Luis Valdés, and Cuban authorities should cease forcing journalists into exile, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

At dawn on January 4, agents from the Cuban National Revolutionary Police and the Political Police took Valdés from his home in Havana, and took Rodríguez from the city’s Combinado del Este Prison, where he had been held since June 2021 for allegedly taking part in a protest, and brought both journalists to the José Martí International Airport, where they forced them to leave the country, according to a Facebook post by Valdés and multiple news reports.

Rodríguez and Valdés, both contributors to the independent digital outlet ADNCuba, flew to El Salvador, where they planned to take a connecting flight to Nicaragua, a country that does not require visas from Cuban nationals; however, at about 9:30 p.m. on January 4, officials at San Salvador’s San Oscar Romero Airport informed the journalists that Nicaragua had denied their entry, according to those sources.

The journalists remained at the airport until about 2 p.m. on January 5, when El Salvador authorities authorized them to enter the country, according to those sources and several tweets by the General Directorate of Migration and Foreigners of El Salvador.

“We welcome the decision by Salvadoran authorities to admit Cuban journalists Esteban Rodríguez and Héctor Luis Valdés into their country, and provide them with support,” said CPJ Latin America and the Caribbean Senior Researcher Ana Cristina Núñez. “While Cuban authorities continue their vicious practice of forcing nationals into exile, including independent journalists, it is imperative for other nations to step up and offer safe harbor.”

The two journalists have been provided with accommodations and food in El Salvador “while humanitarian assistance is provided and their immigration status is resolved,” according to the Migration and Foreigners Directorate’s tweets.

Both Valdés and Rodríguez conducted video reporting for ADNCuba; Valdés aired videos with the “In Search of Truth” program and Rodríguez for the program “The Neighborhood Speaks,” both of which featured reporting on daily issues affecting Cubans’ lives.

Rodríguez and Valdés are also members of the San Isidro Movement, a local freedom of expression and artistic freedom group, according to those news reports.  

CPJ emailed the Cuban National Revolutionary Police and the Ministry of the Interior for comment, but did not receive any reply. CPJ also called the Nicaraguan Directorate of Migration and Foreigners for comment, but no one answered.