Cuba protests US visa denial

News from Cuba | Monday, 31 August 2009

By EDITH M. LEDERER for the Associated Press

Cuba accused the Obama administration of following in the footsteps of the Bush administration and violating U.S. law by denying a visa to the wife of a convicted intelligence agent for the communist nation.

In a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon circulated Monday, Cuba's U.N. Ambassador Abelardo Moreno Fernandez demanded that the U.S. government grant Adriana Perez "a humanitarian visa immediately so that she may visit her husband," Gerardo Hernandez.

The ambassador said that on July 15, after a wait of 95 days, the U.S. Interests Section in Havana denied Perez a visa for the 10th time, using "the crude argument" that she "constitutes a threat to the stability and national security of the United States."

"This is shameful confirmation that the current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is using the same argument as her predecessor Condoleezza Rice to deny Ms. Adriana Perez her visa," Moreno Fernandez said.

"This decision of the United States authorities violates the country's own law and demonstrates a systematic violation of its international obligations," he said. It "is also a systematic and flagrant violation of human rights and an act of torture against Gerardo Hernandez Nordelo - unjustly sentenced to two life sentences plus 15 years in prison - and members of his family."

The U.S. Supreme Court in June refused to review the conviction of Hernandez and four other intelligence agents for the communist country despite calls from Nobel Prize winners and international legal groups to consider the case.

The so-called "Cuban Five," who were arrested in September 1998, maintain they did not receive a fair trial because of strong anti-Castro sentiment in Miami. They have been lionized as heroes in Cuba, but exile groups say they were justly punished.

State Department spokeswoman Rima Vydmantas said the U.S. does not discuss specific details of individual visa cases.

"The fundamental issue is whether the applicant qualifies for the visa under U.S. law on his or her own individual merits," she said.

The letter to the secretary-general included an "appeal to the parliaments and peoples of the world," approved by Cuba's National Assembly, which demands the immediate release of the "Cuban Five."

The appeal states that President Barack Obama "has the constitutional authority and the moral obligation to ensure justice."

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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