12/12/13 - Miami Herald - Cuban pastor says he was denied permission to travel abroad
A Cuban pastor who has been harshly critical of the government says he was
denied permission to travel abroad last month for a religious gathering
even though his passport and visa were all in order.
Bernardo de Quesada Salomón said he was checking in at the Havana airport
Nov. 27 for a flight to the Dominican Republic when immigration officials
told him his computer records showed he had a "limitation" and could not
leave the island.
Authorities never told him the reasons for the block, de Quesada said, but
State Security officials in his hometown of Camagüey told neighbors that it
was because he had illegally added a bathroom to a house he was turning
into a church.
Cuba's government lifted a widely hated requirement for an exit permit on
Jan. 14, but retained the power to block any travel abroad for a blanket
"national interest" that has never been detailed.
Others blocked from traveling abroad have included another pastor in de
Quesada's Apostolic Movement Fire and Dynamics, Mario May Medina, and a
dozen former political prisoners paroled before completing their long
The London-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), an organization that
advocates religious freedom and human rights and was sponsoring the
conference in the Dominican Republic, urged the Cuban government to lift
De Quesada's participation in the conference "cannot seriously be
considered a threat to national security," Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas
said in a statement Thursday. "CSW is concerned that this may open the door
to the Cuban government arbitrarily banning other religious leaders from
traveling out of the country."
De Quesada, 48, an Evangelical pastor, said he was arrested, harassed and
blocked from traveling abroad several times from 2003 to this year because
of his work with the Apostolic Movement Fire and Dynamics and the New
Apostolic Reform in Cuba.
He is not a dissident, he said, but his efforts to "preach the biblical
truth have put me against this communist government," he told El Nuevo
Herald on Thursday in a phone interview from Camagüey.
De Quesada said he made two trips abroad this year, the last one in
October, but apparently angered State Security officials in Camagüey when
scores of his supporters greeted him at the city's airport on this last
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