US Denies Entry to Canadian Journalist Arnold August

Havana, Mar 31 (Prensa Latina) His overt support for Venezuela appears to be the reason why Canadian journalist, author and social media activist Arnold August was denied entry to the United States on March 16, 2019.

August told Prensa Latina that he was on his way to participate in the #HandsOffVenezuela march, held by ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) on March 16 in Washington, D.C.

‘I was planning to bring a message from Canada, citing thousands of social activists in my country, and its more than 5 million trade unionists, who have positioned themselves against the policies of Donald Trump and the Lima Group, in which the Canadian government is playing a lead role,’ he said.

But at the airport in Montreal, ‘I was taken aside and sent to the Homeland Security Office and its Customs and Border Protection Department. After a long wait, I was interviewed by an official.’ 

He was told that, according to FBI data in the possession of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), he had been convicted three times in Canada, between 1972 and 1974. (These were for activities related to political protests,’ he told Prensa Latina.)This criminal record, said the official, prevents him from being admitted to the United States.

‘I objected, arguing that this was not the first time I had been taken aside by Homeland Security and even questioned about the same charges. Yet, they had never denied me entry to the United States.’ 

‘I wanted to know what had changed, I asked ‘Why Now?’ And when there was no response, I challenged again: ‘Why Now?’ but I got no answer. I persisted and she then repeated that today they are enforcing a regulation that prevents anyone with a criminal record from entering the United States.’

August could not hide his amazement, since everything he was told by Homeland had been known to the authorities for over four decades. He asked again for an explanation and was handed a form known as the Homeland Security Waiver Application, ‘should he wish to challenge the decision.’ 

‘After that, they escorted me out of the boarding area to the main entrance of the airport.’ 

August is the author of three books, as well as a series of articles on Venezuela that he has published since his visit to Caracas on February 4, directed in particular at a US audience. He commented that the March 16, 2019,border incident brought to mind previous occurrences that have now taken on greater significance in today’s context of increasing hostility in Washington towards Venezuela and Cuba.

He recalled from his old notes that on May 29, 2014, a Homeland Security official at the Montreal airport had questioned him about articles, apparently found by googling on the Internet, which he had written about the coup against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

The official also wanted to know if he had ever attended meetings with senior officials of the Cuban government, to which he replied that he had met Fidel Castro twice.

On another occasion, several months in the 2010s, he was asked his opinion about the Caribbean island and replied: ‘I support the Cuban Revolution.’ 

In yet another incident at the airport the following year, challenging yet another incident of harassment, August asked whether it had to do with his political opinions and was told that the only problem was his criminal record. The 1972-74 date, the official said, was a date of reference if at any time Homeland determines that ‘you are a danger to the U.S.’ 

‘So, on March 16, 2019, they’re using those old incidents as a pretext to regard me as an alleged threat to the security of the United States,’ he said.

‘It’s perfectly clear that what really matters to them is not some archived file from the early 1970s but my political opinions today. That is why I was barred from the United States on March 16,’ he concluded. Apparently, the date of reference (1972-74)’ arrived on that Saturday morning in March after more than four decades of those events filed by the FBI.’

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