ANITA SNOW | Associated Press
Opposition member Eloy Gutierrez-Menoyo, a repatriated exile who refused to leave the island for fear he wouldn’t be allowed to return, said Wednesday the government gave him a passport allowing him to visit Spain and come back.
Gutierrez-Menoyo said in a statement distributed via e-mail to international media that he was leaving Havana late Wednesday for Spain, where he had been invited to attend a congress of the Socialist Workers Party.
Although his immigration status in Cuba remains unclear, Gutierrez-Menoyo said that the passport letting him go and return to the island was a positive sign. He previously was living here without immigration documents of any kind.
“I cannot deny the fact that this represents flexibility by the government toward someone in the island’s independent opposition,” he wrote.
The Cuban government did not publicly comment on Gutierrez-Menoyo’s travel plans. It has remained silent on his presence here since he returned to the island 10 months with the intention of staying indefinitely.
Gutierrez-Menoyo is a former rebel commander who fought in the Cuban revolution before falling out with Fidel Castro and spending 22 years in prison here.
Born in Spain, Gutierrez-Menoyo later became a Cuban citizen. During his years in exile, beginning in the 1980s, he retained his Cuban citizenship although he also had U.S. residency.
He returned to Cuba to stay in August during a family vacation. His wife and three school-aged sons returned to Miami, but have visited him here since.
Gutierrez-Menoyo insists as a Cuban citizen has the right to live on the island and wants to open a Havana office of his Miami-based pro-democracy group - Cambio Cubano - to bring about change in Cuba. He left his family behind in Miami.
Gutierrez-Menoyo has promoted dialogue with Castro in recent years and even has even met with him several times - but not since returning to live here last year.
Many exiled Cubans leaders in Florida criticize Cambio Cubano as being too “collaborative” with Castro’s government.