CUBA | Cuban Religious Leader Granted Entry to El Salvador

Source:                www.cswusa.org

Date:                     March 3, 2022

 

 
 
 
3.3.2022
A prominent Cuban Baptist leader and his two sons will not be deported back to Cuba and their asylum request will be accepted by El Salvador. 
 
Rev. Carlos Sebastian Hernandez Armas was re-interviewed by immigration authorities, accompanied by a representative of First Lady Gabriela Rodriguez’s office and members of the press on March 2.   
 
The same evening, Rev. Carlos Sebastian Hernandez Armas and his sons were allowed to leave the international airport for the first time since they disembarked from their flight on Feb. 27, and they spent the night in accommodations provided by the government.  
 
In a video statement posted on social media, the Reverend said, “We give thanks to God for all the people who helped, all the people for their prayers…here in El Salvador a great many pastors trying to help us, to bless us. This is a very important step… We have been treated very well here. Naturally there were tense moments, for example when the immigration authorities told me I would have to fly to Panama, but I understood perfectly that they were just trying to do their job… but I was never offended, I give thanks to God, they treated us very well, the police as well and the people here in the airport. We’ve made friends during our stay here in this place. [One] lent me his phone so I could make the call to the UNHCR; they all were looking for ways to see what they could do for me.” 
 
He also noted that the government had provided a team of child psychologists to work with his sons. 
 
Rev. Hernandez Armas, secretary general of the Baptist Convention of Western Cuba and pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Cotorro, Havana, was traveling to Nicaragua on Feb. 27 with his sons when they were prevented from boarding their onward flight during a layover in El Salvador. 
 
Cubans do not require visas to enter Nicaragua, but immigration officials reportedly informed the airline they would not permit the pastor and his sons to disembark the plane in Nicaragua. Immigration officials and police in El Salvador initially told the pastor he would not be permitted to stay in El Salvador because it was not his intended destination, and would likely be returned to Cuba where his freedom would be in jeopardy, and where he had received numerous threats in recent months  
 
Rev. Hernandez Armas has been targeted by the Cuban authorities because of his resistance to government interference in internal denominational matters. Government pressure on him has grown more severe in recent years as he has made repeated public calls for the government to respect freedom of religion or belief.  
 
CSW’s Head of Advocacy Anna Lee Stangl said, “CSW is grateful to the Government of El Salvador for the actions they have taken to review Rev. Hernandez Armas’ request for asylum, and that they have now allowed him entry to the country. We were encouraged to hear of the good treatment the pastor and his family experienced from the immigration officials and police. We continue to call on the Government of Cuba to cease its harassment of religious leaders, to release imprisoned leaders such as Rev. Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo, and to make reforms to guarantee freedom of religion or belief for and other fundamental human rights for all.” 

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