The U.S. has granted the asylum request of a gay journalist from Cuba.
Yariel Valdes Gonzalez appeared in immigration court Wednesday to make his case, reports the Washington Blade. He fled the country amid a crackdown on independent journalists. That included shutting down a website run by Tremenda Nota, and where Valdes Gonzalez was a contributor, at the height of constitutional debates in Cuba. The nation voted to enact a new constitution in February.
"I am very happy and extremely grateful to this country for giving me the opportunity to live in total freedom, far away from the persecution of which I was a victim in Cuba because of my work as an independent journalist," Valdes Gonzalez told the Blade.
The 29-year-old journalist came to the U.S. via the Calexico West Port of Entry on the Mexican border in March. He has been the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement since that time. ICE may still appeal the decision.
Judge Timothy Cole granted Valdes Gonzalez asylum on Wednesday from the Bossier Parish Medium Security Facility in Plain Dealing, La. Valdes Gonzalez appears to remain in ICE custody.
Valdes Gonzalez told the Blade he plans to continue covering oppressive conditions in Cuba but plans now to live in the United States.
"I hope that I can continue my career as a journalist from here and continue the fight for a more democratic Cuba for those 11 million Cubans who have resisted and resist this dictatorial regime that has been in power for six decades," he said.