Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), who was appointed acting chairperson of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on Wednesday, was denied entry to Cuba the same day when her visiting delegation arrived at Havana airport.
Neither the Greater Kaohsiung government nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was able to explain why Chen was unable to obtain a landing visa at Cuban customs.
The nation’s embassy in the Dominican Republic, which handles affairs related to Cuba, where Taiwan does not have a representative office or diplomatic mission, had contacted its Cuban counterpart seeking an explanation, Central and South American Affairs Director-General Wu Chin-mu (吳進木) said.
“The Cuban embassy in the Dominican Republic said it had no idea why Chen was denied a visa, but it has promised to look into the matter and get back to Taiwan,” Wu said.
Wu said he could not remember a similar incident happening to a Taiwanese in the past.
Lai Jui-lung (賴瑞隆), a spokesperson for the Greater Kaohsiung Government, said Chen had applied for a landing visa in an individual capacity, as had members of her delegation.
“We do not know why the mayor was denied entry. Immigration officers did not offer any reasons. Our guess is that this could be due to prior media coverage of the visit before their arrival, but there could be other reasons,” Lai said by telephone.
Lai dismissed any connection between the incident and the appointment of Chen as acting DPP chairperson.
“The incident occurred before the DPP’s Central Executive Committee made the appointment,” he said.
Chen is to temporarily take the helm of the party on March 1, when DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) resigns after taking responsibility for her loss in the presidential election to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Jan. 14.
The election of the party’s next chairperson is scheduled for May 27.
After being denied entry, Chen and four members of her group took the next flight to Mexico to make a transit stop, before flying on to Los Angeles to meet with Taiwanese in the city.
Deputy Kaohsiung Mayor Liu Shih-fang (劉世芳) led the rest of the delegation, mostly officials from the local government’s Agricultural Department and farmers representatives, on their scheduled trip, mainly to observe organic agriculture in Cuba.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson James Chang (章計平) said the ministry had immediately offered assistance in arranging a return trip for Chen after it learned of the incident.
Chen is expected to arrive at Kaohsiung International Airport at 8:30am today.
According to Cuban visa regulations, Republic of China passport holders can enter the country without applying for a visa in advance, but they are required to buy a US$15 tourist card after they enter the country with a landing visa.