In March, Herrera — a surgeon at the Calixto García University Hospital in Havana and a deputy editor for the Hablemos Press independent news agency — was barred from leaving the country to attend a human rights conference in the Czech Republic. Herrera was unable to board his plane after state agents stopped him at the airport and claimed that he needed further authorization to travel.
“In 2012, Cuba began to allow some dissidents to travel abroad, but this new rule seldom applies to medical doctors who disagree with the government. Journalists, dissidents, and activists like Herrera often find themselves helpless when the authorities, targeting them for their work, prevent them from leaving the country,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “Doctor Herrera is clearly being targeted for his role in condemning the farce of Cuba’s ‘significant achievements’ in areas like health care,” said Halvorssen.
In December, the Cuban government reinstated a travel permit requirement for health professionals. In violation of their fundamental right to freedom of movement, medical specialists are now required to obtain permission from health ministry officials in order to leave the country. Herrera requested the travel permit two months in advance of his departure and was never informed that the officials had arbitrarily rejected his request. In a phone call yesterday, Herrera informed HRF that he has once again filed a travel permit request to attend HRF’s Oslo Freedom Forum in May.
HRF is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.