By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ | Associated Press Writer
A Cuban dissident said the U.S. government revoked his visa after granting him political refugee status, prompting other opponents of Fidel Castro’s communist government to express concern they are losing support from the United States.
Bernardo Arevalo Padron, a journalist, was granted asylum by the United States after being released earlier this year from a Cuban prison, where he served a six-year sentence on a contempt charge against Castro and Vice President Carlos Lage.
Yet last week, the dissident said, he received a letter from the U.S. Interest Section in Havana, saying his visa had been revoked.
“It’s an outrage,” Arevalo told The Associated Press late Monday. “I was all ready to travel on Aug. 25.”
The letter accused him of cooperating with Cuban security officials, he said.
Arevalo, who was a Cuban intelligence agent before he became a dissident in 1990, denied he was still working for Castro’s government.
Officials at the U.S. Interest Section declined to comment on Arevalo’s case, citing confidentiality rules.
Last month, the U.S. government also denied a visa to moderate Cuban dissident Dimas Castellanos, who had been invited to participate in a conference at the Institute of Cuban Studies in Miami.
Other dissidents said they have also been denied visas or suddenly lost permission to enter the U.S. Interest Section in Havana and use computers there.
“They didn’t give me an explanation. The guards at the door simply took away my pass,” said dissident Gradys Munoz.
Vladimiro Roca, a leading dissident with the opposition group United For All Movement, said officials at the American mission “have really changed their treatment of some dissidents lately.”
Elizardo Sanchez, an activist who heads the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and Reconciliation, said the U.S. government appeared to suspect that dissidents were working as undercover agents for Castro.
“I am very surprised and worried about the possibility that the United States’ immigration service is adopting unjust measures in the midst of a certain paranoia,” Sanchez said.
Seventy-five Cuban dissidents accused of working with U.S. diplomats to undermine the island’s government were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms in a crackdown last year. Two have since been released for health reasons.
The Bush administration has also cracked down on the island, imposing new rules tightening restrictions on travel to Cuba and reducing the amount of dollars Cuban emigres can send home. Washington hopes the measures will close loopholes in the long-standing U.S. embargo on Cuba and weaken Castro’s rule.