Editors’ Note: It appears that at least 95 US television and radio stations and newspapers — including the Washington Post, Huffington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and Miami Herald — picked up the brief Associated Press story about the US State Department ban on travel to the panel on Cuba organized by Marxism-Leninism Today at the Left Forum in New York City.

Below is the AP story and the text of our protest letter.

The Associated Press

March 23, 2012

WASHINGTON — The State Department says it has rejected applications from two senior Cuban diplomats to travel to New York to take part in a panel discussion sponsored by a Marxist group, but not for political reasons.

Rather, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says they were denied because American diplomats in Havana are routinely refused permission to travel outside the Cuban capital.

The two diplomats from Cuba’s interest section in Washington had asked to go to New York from March 16-18 to appear on a panel about Cuba sponsored by the magazine Marxism-Leninism Today. The magazine had accused the government of trying to deny American citizens the freedom to hear Cuba’s point of view.

Statement by the editorial boad of Marxism-Leninism Today (MLToday.com) on the US State Department’s denial of permission for Cuban diplomats to travel to New York City for the Left Forum, March 16-18, 2012.

The Editorial Board of MLToday.com strongly protests the State Department’s refusal to grant  two Cuban diplomats in Washington, DC permission to travel to New York City to participate in the Left Forum the weekend of March 16-18.

Patricia Pego, First Secretary, and Juan Lamigueiro, Deputy Chief of the Mission, at the Cuban Interest Section in Washington were slated to participate in a panel sponsored by MLToday.com on New Developments in Cuba and a second panel on the Cuban Five.

Cuban diplomats based in Washington, DC and at the United Nations in New York cannot travel outside a 50-mile radius without first obtaining permission from the State Department.

Founded as the Socialist Scholars Conference, the Left Forum is the largest annual gathering of left academics, students and labor and community activists.  Held this year at Pace University in New York City, it attracted over 5,000 registrants.

The MLT Editorial Board wishes to thank the Cuban diplomats, based at Cuba’s United Nations Mission, who did such an excellent job on very short notice, filling in for their Washington  colleagues.  They were received with gratitude and appreciation by a crowd so anxious to hear their presentation that it overflowed the assigned room.

For more than 50 years the U.S. government has maintained an illegal and criminal blockade of Cuba that has caused untold damage and injury to Cuban citizens and Cuban society.  But it is now very clear that the illegal blockade is also used to deny American citizens the freedom to hear Cuba’s point of view.

With the Obama Administration stepping up enforcement of the blockade itself; with the Administration trying to prevent Cuba from being invited to the Summit of the Americas in Colombia next month; and with the U.S. government attempting to prevent Americans from hearing first hand from Cubans themselves, it is reasonable to ask “Why is the American government afraid of Cuba?”

We urge all our friends and supporters to answer that question  and  then call your congressperson to protest
March 19, 2012