Raul Rivero, a prominent Cuban dissident, journalist and poet recently freed from jail on the communist island, was held for hours by immigration officials Sunday at Miami International Airport, causing him to miss a flight to the Midwest where he was scheduled to address an international media conference.
Rivero was pulled from the regular passport control line at MIA and taken to another area for processing under requirements of a national security regulation for citizens of countries believed to be state sponsors of terrorism. The requirement cited by a U.S. government spokesman calls for fingerprinting, photographing and registration of arriving citizens of those countries.
Cuba is one of several countries included on a list of so-called state sponsors of terrorism cited on a State Department website.
Rivero, 59, told reporters after his release that he was held for four hours and was not told why he was delayed.
''They didn't give me any explanation,'' he said. ``They told me to enter a room for a moment and the moment lasted for four hours.''
Rivero was one of 75 journalists and political dissidents jailed in 2003 under a crackdown by the Fidel Castro regime. He was sentenced to 20 years but was released for health reasons, according to the Cuban government. Since then, Rivero has been a much sought-after commentator on Cuban affairs.
Last Wednesday, he was in Switzerland, where he spoke publicly on several occasions and met with hundreds of Cuban exiles.
Traveling from Madrid Sunday, Rivero arrived in Miami at 2:45 p.m. and was supposed to catch a connecting 6:15 p.m. flight to Indianapolis where he was scheduled to make a highly anticipated keynote speech at the Inter-American Press Association on journalists still jailed in Cuba.
Zachary Mann, a spokesman in Miami for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said heavy passenger traffic in the passport line added to the longer-than-unsual processing time for Rivero.
He was released at 7 p.m., Mann said.
Sunday night's event was not canceled, though Rivero was rescheduled to speak to the group tonight in Indianapolis.
Rivero will be back in Miami on Thursday for a poetry reading hosted by Miami Dade College's Florida Center for the Literary Arts. The event is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. at the college's Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Avenue, Chapman Conference Center. Admission is free.
El Nuevo Herald staff writers Wilfredo Cancio Isla and Helena Poleo contributed to this report.
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