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Cuba Turns Away LGBTQ Journalist Upon Arrival

Michael Lavers

Michael Lavers arrived shortly after Cuba cancelled marches to honor International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

An LGBTQjournalist was turned away from the Cuba border during a routine reporting trip to the country.

Michael Lavers, the international news editor for the Washington, D.C.-based LGBTQ outlet The Washington Blade, wrote on Twitter Thursday afternoon that he was turned away at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana.

"I am on a flight back to Miami," he wrote. "I am fine and was never detained or put at risk."

The Bladereported a customs agent pulled Lavers aside to check his passport. Authorities questioned over his profession and reason for entering the country.

The news outlet has written for several years about challenges facing the LGBTQ population in Cuba. Lavers personally has traveled to Cuba seven times since 2015 while traveling on a tourist card, and he has also traveled there on a press visa.

"We are deeply disappointed in this action by the Cuban government," said Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff. "The Blade has traveled to Cuba seven times in four years covering the plight of the LGBTQ community and we are committed to fair, accurate journalism. Barring our reporter from the country is a disturbing development that we hope is an aberration that will be remedied."

Lavers said he waited at the airport for approximately seven hours before being boarded on an American Airlines flight to Miami. He tweeted at 5:08 p.m. Wednesday that he had landed back in the United States.

During a 2017 trip, Lavers wrote that he was clearly under government surveillance for the duration of a trip. During that trip, he had government-issued press credentials.

"The Cuban government will likely never confirm my suspicion if I were to ask, but coincidence is more than simple coincidence in a country with little tolerance of public criticism of the government and/or those who represent it," he wrote at the time.

The Blade reports Lavers landed in Havana this trip two days after the National Center for Sexual Education cancelled marches in Havana and Camaguey to honor the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

The Blade notes the American journalist was denied entry into the country at an already tense moment in U.S.-Cuba relations.

After Obama administration efforts to normalize relations with the island nation starting in 2015, many of those policies have been reversed under President Trump. More recently, the U.S. relationship has grown more strained over Cuba's support of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro as international pressure mounts for the South American leader to step down.

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