Members of youth delegation to Cuba detained on return to US

150 young leaders from the United States took part in a 10-day delegation to Cuba to exchange and learn from the Cuban people. On their return, many of them were detained at US airports and their devices were searched

May 04, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
The 150-person delegation was one of the largest from the US in recent history. Photo: Zoe Alexandra

On Wednesday, May 3, several members of various organizations in the US, who had traveled to Cuba as part of an international youth delegation, were detained and harassed by US authorities during their return to the country.

The People’s Forum, one of the organizations that participated in the 10-day solidarity brigade organized by the International Peoples’ Assembly, condemned the harassment faced by delegation members at US airports.

“URGENT! Today multiple members of our youth delegation to Cuba were detained and held for hours by the US Customs & Border Patrol after returning. Despite having traveled legally, we’ve been harassed and held in Secondary Questioning on arrival at the Miami International Airport and the Newark Liberty International Airport,” wrote the People’s Forum.

It said that the mobile phones of several delegates were wrongfully searched and seized by the CBP officials. “This outrageous behavior seeks to intimidate us and criminalize our right to travel and exchange. We demand the release of our remaining comrades! We will not be moved! Our commitment to end the US Blockade of Cuba will only grow,” the Forum emphasized.

Manolo De Los Santos, co-executive director of The People’s Forum and an organizer of the delegation, also condemned these actions. “Over 150 youth travel to Cuba to learn and are welcomed back in the US with detention, political questioning and the seizing of phones. Which country is the police state?” questioned De Los Santos.

Upon learning about the harassment, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel expressed Cuba’s solidarity with the members of the US delegation. “Cheer up guys, We’re with you. Thank you for your courage, for supporting Cuba and for facing the hatred of those who cannot stand the fact that the Cuban Revolution has the support of the most progressive youth in the belly of the beast. We send you a big hug,” wrote Díaz-Canel in a tweet.

Cuban organizations and media personalities also expressed outrage following the politically motivated detentions.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center which participated in several of the brigade’s activities wrote, “As CMLK, we denounce the harassment which the hundred young people, ‘ambassadors of peace’ are being subjected to and we reject the injustices suffered in this moment by those who embrace and sustain solidarity amongst the people as the only alternative to capitalism. We denounce these acts of abuse towards good people. Young people who desire and dream of a better future full of hope to transform what is imposed on us as ‘impossible.’”

Cuban social media influencer, El Necio, highlighted the hypocritical nature of the detentions and wrote, “We only have one question: where is the freedom?”

The continental platform of social movements, ALBA Movimientos, joined in the condemnation stating, “They have shown once again that they cannot tolerate that there are people that from the belly of the beast [who] support the Cuban revolution.”

On Thursday morning, De Los Santos reported that “all the comrades who traveled to Cuba are FREE,” and once again condemned the US authorities for intimidating the young delegation.

“The aggressive attitude of the Customs & Border Patrol officials towards the members of our delegation during their return to the United States is reprehensible. The seizure of phones and the political nature of interrogation in secondary questioning imply a level of harassment not seen in years. It was a clear effort to intimidate young people who exercised their right to travel and learn. This attempt to deter us from being in solidarity with Cuba will fail,” said Santos.

“We affirm our right to travel and exchange with the Cuban people, and now more than ever it is our duty to stand with them to break the US Blockade. These unfortunate incidents are further evidence of the wrong direction of a hostile US foreign policy towards Cuba. Their actions in fact demonstrate that the US is far from a bastion of democracy and human rights, and rather than intimidate us, they motivate us to strengthen our struggles for true, transformative change here in the United States,” he added.

Over 150 young leaders from a variety of organizations in the US went to Cuba to participate in a meeting with different sectors of Cuban society and learn about the impact of the US blockade and experiences in building socialism. These meetings were held in Havana between April 24 and May 3.