Governments in Latin America Should Open the Doors to all Cubans

From 9-11 April, US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro will participate at the Summit of the Americas, the first time both countries have met at this summit in decades. Cuba has been excluded from the Organisation of American States, and has not attended the summit held annually in Panama since the early 1960s. But now Cuba has begun to be welcomed by the governments of Latin America.

The report that Civil Rights Defenders will publish today demonstrates, however, that any willingness to cooperate with Cuba is solely reserved for the Cuban government. The interest to invite Cuban human rights defenders is wholly limited.

But if Cuba is to become an integral part of the Americas again, it will be necessary that the countries in the region open their doors to all Cubans.

Prior to the summit, Civil Rights Defenders mapped the pre-conditions for Cuban human rights defenders to access visas in the various countries comprising Latin America, in order to participate in this and other similar events. The survey shows that many countries place higher demands on Cubans than other nationalities in the region. They demand legalised invitations, financial guarantees and high fees which essentially makes attaining the actual visa virtually impossible.

Many countries also require that before travelling Cubans must provide proof that they do not have a criminal record from the Cuban authorities.

“To insist that Cuban human rights defenders, who will do anything to escape police attention are frequently arrested, harassed or sentenced to long prison terms, and then to visit the police to request such proof cynically demonstrates that the countries in the region are not interested in opening doors for their Cuban neighbours,” said Erik Jennische, Latin America Programme Director, Civil Rights Defenders.

This problem has been particularly evident for those wishing to travel to the Summit of the Americas in Panama. Very few Cuban human rights defenders apart from those who   have a visa to the US or the EU, have been granted a visa to Panama to participate in side events at the summit.

In preparing this report, Civil Rights Defenders has been in contact with 15 consulates and embassies from Latin America that are accredited in Havana.

Read the report in Spanish here: Abran Las Puertas a los Cubanos.