July 24, 2019 at 1:34 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Blade contributor from Cuba appears before immigration judge
Yariel Valdés González, a Washington Blade contributor from Cuba who has asked for asylum in the U.S., appeared before an immigration judge in Louisiana on July 23, 2019.

A Washington Blade contributor from Cuba who has asked for asylum in the U.S. appeared before an immigration judge in Louisiana on Tuesday.

Yariel Valdés González went in front of Judge Grady A. Crooks from the Bossier Parish Medium Security Facility in Plain Dealing, La., where he remains in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. Crooks scheduled a second hearing for Sept. 6 in order to consider additional evidence that supports Valdés’ case.

“I’m happy,” Valdés told the Blade during a telephone interview after the hearing.

Valdés, 28, entered the U.S. on March 27 through the Calexico West Port of Entry between Calexico, Calif., and Mexicali, Mexico. Valdés has asked for asylum based on the persecution he said he suffered in Cuba because he is a journalist.

Cuban authorities routinely harass and detain journalists who work for independent media outlets.

Authorities in October 2016 arrested Maykel González Vivero, publisher of Tremenda Nota, the Blade’s media partner for which Valdés has contributed, when he was in the city of Baracoa in eastern Cuba to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. González and his partner, Carlos Alejandro Rodríguez Martínez, who is Tremenda Nota’s editor, were taken into custody in September 2017 when they tried to interview a Cuban Communist Party official in Villa Clara province about Hurricane Irma preparations.

Ricardo Fernández, a reporter for 14ymedio, a website founded by Yoani Sánchez, a journalist who is a vocal critic of the Cuban government, was arrested earlier this month in Havana. Authorities on Sunday released Fernández in Camagüey province after nine days in custody.

Luz Escobar, another 14ymedio reporter, was detained for several hours on May 8 after she tried to interview Havana residents displaced by a freak tornado that tore through parts of the Cuban capital earlier this year. Authorities took Escobar into custody on the same day the Cuban government prevented this reporter from entering the country at Havana’s José Martí International Airport.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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