When Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, recipient of the 2014 David Burke Distinguished Award for Journalism returned to his country after a brief tour of New York, Washington D.C. and Miami, he walked right back to the everyday reality of living in Cuba.
On January 26th, customs authorities at the Frank Pais International Airport in Holguin, Cuba seized two hard drives, two computer keyboards and a mobile phone.
Lobaina, the coordinator of the independent video production group Palenque Vision told Marti Noticias, “The customs office has a standard weighing procedure and despite miscellaneous items, I was not over the limit. Officials apply an arbitrary rule that every object has a value in kilograms and taking this into effect, then I exceeded the weight even though the other passengers had more baggage than me.”
Mr. Lobaina can appeal the seizure in 30 days and noted that although there were no State Security agents present, airport officials tried to convince him that it was solely a legal issue. Mr. Lobaina, however, sees political implications. “Activists are always going to be subjects of inquiry, it’s a question that remains at the discretion of the political police on the island; they like to refer to us as ‘persons of interest to the state’, they’ll check on you and as it’s happened to me, it can happen to others,” he concluded.
In just over two years, State Security officials and members of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) have confiscated a dozen cameras from his team of video journalists at Palenque Vision and some reporters have been repeatedly beaten.