Sábado, 15 de Febrero de 2020
Última actualización: 16:13 CET
Humanitarian Crisis

Cuban emigrants declare a hunger strike in Panama

Cubans in the jungle of Darien in August of 2016. (DDC)

A group of six Cuban emigrants, including several identifying themselves as members of the Movimiento Prodemocrático Pedro Luis Boitel, declared themselves on a hunger strike in the locality of Laja Blanca, Darien (Panama)

Another group of 13 men and five women launched a similar protest at a shelter for undocumented émigrés, at which they claim they are prisoners, according to a video distributed via the Internet.

One of the six Cubans from Laja Blanca, Arnaldo Pérez Aguilar, said that he made the decision to leave Cuba due to persecution by the regime. He added that he joined the hunger strike due to persistent abuse by the Panamanian authorities, deportations to Colombia by means of deceit, and other violations of his rights by the National Borders Service (SENAFRONT) of the Central American country.

"We have resorted to this for our freedom, because we cannot return to Cuba," said Pérez Aguilar.

Those detained in Laja Blanca stated that the facility where they are being held is not a shelter, as the authorities contend, but rather a prison, where counts are conducted. They stated that their passports have been confiscated and, under the pretense that they will be transferred to Panama City, the Panamanian military takes them back to the Colombian border.

"They are putting us on trucks and releasing us in the middle of the jungle," said Andy Mora, another member of the group.

"They ditch us there without any food or water. They could care less if anyone is injured or sick. We are searching for our freedom. We want to keep going. We don´t want to stay in Panama," José Alberto Llanes Rodríguez told DIARIO DE CUBA, also identifying himself as a firm opponent of the regime.

“A hunt of Cubans”

"A genuine hunt has been unleashed by Panamanian border agents against Cuban emigrants. They deport only our people, letting those from other countries continue," complained Danilo Páez Cárdenas, age 32, in the Colombian town of Sapzurro.

On both last days dozens of Cubans were abandoned in the jungle-covered mountains between Colombia and Panama. Informed to "go back where you came from, we don't want you here in Panama," armed Panamanian military force Cubans to return to Colombia, without any kind of deportation proceedings with the Colombian authorities.

The Cubans, by their own means and crossing a jungle teeming with guerrillas and bands of drug traffickers, were able to reach Sapzurro, a small fishing village.

On the nights of 27 and 28 January, 84 Cuban citizens were deported there from Panama. The community welcomed them with humanitarian aid, providing them with shelter and food.

"Some arrived ill, or with their feet sore and wounded, and were attended to by the only nurse in the town. One arrived with a knife cut in the veins of his hands, which required suturing. The people of Sapzurro have even taken them into their houses. Our community stands in solidarity with them, offering aid to whomever needs it, regardless of their nationality, race or religious creed. Our elders have taught us to show solidarity. If this keeps up we won´t have the capacity to handle it," local police inspector José Escobar told DIARIO DE CUBA.

Escobar confirmed that the deportations were carried out without any proceedings between the authorities of the two countries.

Among the deportees was Roberto Rojas, who tried twice to leave Cuba by raft, but was intercepted by border authorities on both occasions. His last attempt was in 2006. He spent four years in jail.

 Rojas said that when he realized that the Panamanian authorities were putting him on a plane, he tried to commit suicide by cutting his veins. “The guards were deaf to my pleas. I told them that if they were sending me back to Cuba, I'd rather die. In a moment of despair I cut my arms, so they just put me in the plane, without any medical attention," he said.

"Thank God, here they immediately took me to a health center, where a nurse attended to me and gave me stitches," he added.

Roberto Rojas said that among the Cubans deported from Laja Blanca some have returned to the jungle. Others, who had money, headed for Turbo, Colombia, where they will look for a way to reach Panama via the Pacific Ocean. Only two have decided to return to Cuba.

"I don't know what to do anymore. There are thousands of Cubans like me scattered all across South and Central America," said Rojas.