HAVANA – Cuba prohibited entry on Wednesday to former Presidents Andres Pastrana and Jorge Quiroga, of Colombia and Bolivia, respectively, who had been scheduled to receive the Paya Prize bearing the name of late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya.
“It’s an arbitrary decision and a huge lack of respect,” Rosa Maria Paya, the director of the Latin American Network of Young People for Democracy and daughter of the dissident, who died in 2012, said at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport
The Latin American Network bestows the Oswaldo Paya Prize for Freedom and Life, and the two ex-presidents, who were scheduled to receive the award in the name of the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA) group, had traveled from Bogota to Havana, where they were detained at the airport for two hours by immigration authorities without being allowed to officially enter the country.
Both men were returned to Bogota on an Avianca Airlines flight which departed at 3:50 pm, Paya confirmed to EFE, lamenting the fact that Cuban authorities provided no explanation for what she called a “kidnapping” of the two former leaders.
Shortly after they landed in Havana, Quiroga and Pastrana both took to Twitter to denounce the fact that they were being held at the airport immigration office, where Paya had been awaiting them, and then later deported.
Despite the absence of Pastrana and Quiroga, Paya said that the award ceremony will be held at her family home on Thursday, as planned.
The Paya Prize is awarded to acknowledge individuals and organizations who defend democracy.