3 new Cuban dissidents arrive in Spain
By JORGE SAINZ
Associated Press Writer
MADRID -- Three more Cuban political prisoners arrived in Spain on
Thursday as part of Cuba's pledge to free 52 dissidents jailed since 2003.
The arrival brought to 15 the number of released Cuban inmates taken in
by Spain in the past two weeks. They have been accompanied by dozens of
relatives. Another five freed prisoners are expected to arrive Friday.
Cuba agreed to free the political prisoners after talks with the
Catholic Church and Spain.
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos predicted Wednesday the
release would improve European Union relations with Cuba and could
eventually lead to a thaw in U.S. ties and the lifting of a decades-old
embargo against the Communist-run island.
The three who arrived Thursday - named as Ricardo Silva Gual, Alfredo
Pulido Lopez and Manuel Ubals Gonzalez - were taken to a hotel on
Madrid's outskirts, where they were looked after by Spanish Red Cross
workers. The three and their relatives, including wives and children,
appeared healthy but exhausted after their experience.
"I have to think about redirecting my life here and try to bring up my
son, something I have not been able to do all these years," Silva, 37,
told the AP. He had served more than seven years of a 10-year sentence.
The dissidents have spoken of dire conditions in the Cuban prisons.
Cuba maintains none is a prisoner of conscience and insists they are
mercenaries paid by Washington and supported by anti-Castro exiles in
Miami whose only goal was to discredit the Cuban government.
"I feel deported," said Pulido, 49, who had been serving a 14-year sentence.
"In Cuba there is no liberty, no democratic law, meetings are not
allowed and the press is in the hands of the state. Now, we are going to
continue the fight from here," he said.
The first former inmates to arrive were placed in a modest hotel in a
remote industrial zone of Madrid, but the government has started moving
them into apartments outside of the capital because Madrid is considered
too expensive a place for arriving immigrants to build new lives.
Spain has told the former prisoners they will be given work and
residency permits within a few months.