A Cuban Revolution leader's dissident son has arrived in the United States after Cuban authorities granted him an exit permit following a seven-year ban on him traveling, Miami-based U.S. media said on Friday.
Juan Juan Almeida, a 43-year-old lawyer and the son of Commander Juan Almeida Bosque who died in September 2009, was allowed to leave the communist-ruled island following the mediation of Cuban Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega.
Almeida, who was briefly arrested for trying to leave Cuba illegally in 2009 and went on a hunger strike to demand an exit permit, was reunited with his wife and daughter at the Miami airport on Thursday. He arrived on a flight from Mexico after leaving Cuba this week.
He told reporters his aim in leaving was to be with his family and receive medical treatment in the United States for the degenerative rheumatic illness that he suffers.
But he criticized Cuban President Raul Castro, a close comrade of his late father in the 1959 Cuban revolution led by former President Fidel Castro, for not having allowed him to leave earlier.
"Raul Castro is the main person responsible -- but not the only one -- for me not having been able to leave Cuba in the last seven years to receive the medical treatment that I need," he said in comments cited by the Miami-based Cuban affairs website cafefuerte.com.
Cubans need authorization to leave the island and individuals in sensitive, security-related or economically strategic jobs can be restricted from traveling, especially if there are suspicions about their loyalty to the country's communist government.
The Miami Herald reported Almeida thanked the Cuban Catholic Church for interceding on his behalf.
Almeida had written a book, published in Spain, "Memories of an Unknown Cuban Guerrilla," which took a wry look at his life as a member of Cuba's political elite.
His permission to leave comes at a time when Cuba's government is in the process of releasing 52 political prisoners under an agreement reached with Cardinal Ortega and the Catholic Church.
They are being released in batches on the condition they leave the island and travel to Spain.
The international community has applauded the prisoner releases, which followed months of intense criticism of the Cuban government after the death of a dissident hunger striker and harassment by government supporters of prisoners' female relatives who staged peaceful protest marches.
(Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Kevin Gray and Jerry Norton)