Cuban authorities prevent Felix Llerena Lopez from boarding his flight to the United States on Saturday, June 18. Llerena recently took a trip to the United States in May to attend another religious freedom event. At that time, upon returning to the island, Llerena was also detained and questioned by Cuban officials about his activities abroad. In this most recent incident, Llerena was not given a forthright reason as to why he was not allowed to leave the island. Llerena’s story highlights the Cuban government’s restrictive policies and its distaste for open expression, particularly from individuals who are active in the cause of religious freedom.
06/21/2017 Cuba (CSW-UK) – A religious freedom defender has been blocked from leaving Cuba to attend a conference on human rights and democracy. Felix Llerena López was preparing to board his flight on Saturday 18 June, when state security agents approached him and took him into an office where they informed him that he was barred from leaving the country.
While Llerena López was not given a reason for the travel ban, he was told that it had been put in place after he returned from a visit to the United States (US) in May, his first trip outside of the country. Llerena López works with the Patmos Institute, an independent civil society organisation which promotes freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) for all and inter-religious dialogue. While he was in the US, he raised concerns about FoRB violations in meetings with US government officials and members of Congress arranged by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). Llerena Lopez was expelled from university shortly after his return.
In addition, last week, a prominent leader in the Apostolic Movement, Pastor Alain Toledano, was visited by state security agents and Communist Party officials at his home in Santiago de Cuba, who showed him an ‘acta de advertencia’, or a pre-arrest warrant, which he is concerned may also be used to block him from traveling abroad.