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Cuba denies visa for opposition leader wanting to study in Chile

Cuba denies visa for opposition leader wanting to study in Chile

Thursday, 13 December 2012 21:34

Written by Amelia Duggan

Decision to deny visa to Rosa María Payá provokes outcry from Chile.

The Cuban government denied the request Tuesday of opposition movement

leader Rosa María Payá to leave the country to study in Chile.

Payá, who became the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement in July

following the death of her father and previous leader Oswaldo Payá, was

granted a visa and scholarship to study political theory and public

management at Universidad Miguel de Cervantes in Santiago and was due to

begin in January.

Mijail Bonito Lovio, a Cuban expat and the secretary of international

relations for the Chilean chapter of the Independent and Democratic Cuba

Party (CID), decried the Cuban government's decision.

"It is the second time this year that the Cuban government denied the

travel permit to Rosa María Payá," Bonito Lovio told The Santiago Times.

"The reason is very simple: Cuban dissidents on the island suffer

repression and their statements abroad could cause the Cuban government

to lose the image of sanctity it still has in many parts of the world."

"(Her trip) threatened to show the world that Cuban dissidents are

articulate young idealists and not the criminals that the Cuban

government wants us to think," he said.

The Cuban government's decision is particularly controversial as the

country is preparing to relax its stringent border controls. President

Raúl Castro announced in October the elimination of the half-century-old

restriction that requires all Cubans to have a government-approved

travel permit. The new measure, which would drop this stringent

requirement, is set to be implemented Jan. 14, 2013.

However, critics like Bonito Lovio fear arbitrary requirements will

simply be transferred to the process for obtaining a passport, leaving

the essential process unchanged.

The news also comes as Cuban President Castro is scheduled to attend the

Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit to be

held in Chile in January 2013.

"We find it unacceptable that a dictator will arrive and be greeted with

the same honors as those of a president of a democratic state in a

country like Chile," Bonito Lovio said.

"We, along with several political groups of Chilean civil society, will

carry out activities to express our deepest rejection of the visit of

this dictator and we hope that this is seconded by Chileans who truly

value democracy, which is the majority," he added.

Sen. Patricio Walker, a member the center-left Christian Democrat Party

(DC) and a vocal critic of Castro, also condemned the Cuban government's

decision.

"It's really incomprehensible and shows that the Cuban government wants

to control its people completely, even in their ability to travel,"

Walker told The Santiago Times.

"Raúl Castro should understand that we have a free press in Chile, and

he should know that if he comes here, he will be asked some very

uncomfortable questions," he added.

Walker, who had a personal relationship with Oswaldo Payá, was denied an

entry visa to Cuba on a trip to attend Payá's funeral. According to

official reports, the former opposition leader died in a car crash

earlier this year, but his family accused the Cuban government of

ordering his assassination.

By Amelia Duggan (duggan@santiagotimes.cl)

http://www.santiagotimes.cl/world/latin-america/25522-cuba-denies-visa-for-opposition-leader-wanting-to-study-in-chile

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