Monday, February 18, 2008

Handful of political prisoners released in Cuba

Cuba has released four political prisoners to Spain and is expected to release another three to the U.S. shortly. The men were among 75 who were arrested in 2003 following a crackdown on dissent in the country and sentenced to prison terms up to 28 years. Human rights activists have raised concerns about the criminalization of dissent in such cases as journalist Normando Hernandez Gonzalez who was also arrested in 2003. But the police state is not omnipresent. Bloggers have voiced opposition to the government and demonstrators, such as the Women in White, have agitated for human rights.

This from the BBC:
Cuba has released four political prisoners arrested during a crackdown on the opposition in 2003. Reporters Jose Ramon and Alejandro Gonzalez, dissident Omar Pernet and trade unionist Pedro Alvarez were flown to Madrid by a Spanish air force jet.

The four were among 75 prominent figures convicted of being mercenaries in the pay of the US five years ago.

Cuba had been expected to release seven political prisoners on health grounds after negotiations with Spain.

The other three are expected to be flown to the US, says the BBC's Michael Voss in Havana. The four released dissidents were flown to Spain with their families, arriving at a military airport near Madrid on Sunday after an overnight flight from Havana.

Their release is being seen by Western diplomatic sources in Cuba as a positive move by acting President Raul Castro, whose brother Fidel Castro underwent emergency surgery 18 months ago.

"The decision was made unilaterally by the Cuban authorities and we are very satisfied," said Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.

On Friday, he had announced Cuba would free seven of the 59 dissidents still imprisoned after the 2003 crackdown.

Those convicted were given prison sentences of up to 28 years, but 16 have already been released on health grounds.
Only a handful of prisoners have been released. Whether or not this is the beginning of something positive (i.e., the release of the remaining political prisoners and a relaxation of government efforts to quash dissent) has yet to be seen.

1 comment:

Comrade Kevin said...

I am inclined to believe in a much more moderate shift than anything seismic. If we could give Cuba reason to buy our things, they would move in the direction of China.

The other extreme is that if Cuba realizes it can become more wealthy by embracing capitalism, will we fall into the same problems--shipping our jobs to Cuba and facing a massive inequality in exports/imports with them.