Cuban authorities on Wednesday refused to allow Washington Blade International News Editor Michael K. Lavers to enter the country.
Lavers arrived at Havana’s José Marti International Airport on an American Airlines flight from Miami shortly before noon EST.
A customs agent pulled him aside and a supervisor took his passport. The supervisor’s colleague approached Lavers about 15 minutes later and asked him how many times he has been to Cuba, what his profession is and why did he come to the country.
The official informed Lavers the Cuban government was not going to allow him into the country. Lavers asked the official why and he said his name appeared on a list without any additional explanation.
Lavers spent more than six hours in the customs hall before he boarded an American Airlines flight to Miami shortly before 7 p.m.
His iPhone was confiscated shortly after 3 p.m., but he was able to text contacts in the country through his Cuban cell phone. Lavers was not officially detained.
Lavers has traveled to Cuba seven times since 2015, with his most recent trip from Feb. 28-March 4 of this year on a “tourist card.” Lavers has filed dozens of stories from Cuba after authorities allowed him to enter the country with both press visas and a “tourist card.”
“We are deeply disappointed in this action by the Cuban government,” said Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff. “The Blade has traveled to Cuba seven times in four years covering the plight of the LGBTQ community and we are committed to fair, accurate journalism. Barring our reporter from the country is a disturbing development that we hope is an aberration that will be remedied.”
Lavers landed in Havana two days after the National Center for Sexual Education, a group directed by Mariela Castro, the daughter of former President Raúl Castro, announced the cancellation of marches in Havana and the city of Camagüey that would have commemorated the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
Cleve Jones, a San Francisco-based activist who was to have been the Havana march’s grand marshal, was on Lavers’ flight and spoke with him before he passed through customs.
LGBT activists who work independently of CENESEX sharply criticized the decision to cancel the marches. Reports also indicate they are planning to stage a march in Havana on Saturday.
Other IDAHOBiT events sponsored by CENESEX will take place as scheduled. They coincide with increased tensions between Washington and Havana over Cuba’s continued support of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
Reports also indicate authorities on Wednesday arrested Luz Escobar, an independent journalist.