The former Cuban political prisoners who arrived this week in Spain
demanded release from prison "with full rights" for all those still
being held by the island's communist government for political reasons
MADRID – The former Cuban political prisoners who arrived this week in
Spain demanded on Thursday release from prison "with full rights" for
all those being held by the island's communist government for political
At a press conference at the Madrid Press Association, six of the freed
dissidents, most of them journalists, said that there will be no change
while the political prisoners who have refused to go to Spain continue
to languish in prison.
"That's our main struggle, for he who wants to remain in Cuba to be
free," said Julio Cesar Galvez, who was joined by Omar Rodriguez,
Normando Hernandez, Ricardo Gonzalez, Jose Luis Garcia Paneque and
Lester Gonzalez at an event organized by Reporters Without Borders.
Ricardo Gonzalez said that, if what the Castro regime wants is to free
everyone, "What are we waiting for? ... Or is it that they want to have
those who opted to remain in Cuba as hostages and bargaining chips?"
Garcia Paneque, a physician, said that the prisoners' sentences "have
not been granted amnesty, or annulled, and they continue in force" in
all cases, causing him to infer that the threat of returning to prison
The dissidents said that they still do not feel free because they don't
have any papers that prove to them that they will not be returned to
prison, and they emphasized that their release is not a sufficient
reason for the European Union to ease its policy toward Cuba.
"If we have to ask permission to return to the homeland, it's that we're
not free. We're not immigrants, but rather refugees. I continue to be
politically persecuted," Galvez said.
At present, there are 10 political prisoners who have been freed and
subsequently traveled to Spain, as a result of the conversations between
President Raul Castro and the Cuban Catholic hierarchy with the
sponsorship of the Spanish government.
Omar Rodriguez contradicted Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel
Moratinos, who said in Parliament this week that the prisoners who have
arrived in Spain "are free and were not deported."
"Yes, there was a deportation. We don't have any ability to ask
permission to return to our homeland," he responded firmly.
The release of the prisoners and the sending of some of them to Spain
is, Gonzalez said, a "gimmick" and a "mask" to get the EU to ease its
policy toward the island.
In his judgment, the releases are positive – but insufficient – steps,
and Europe should continue demanding democratic advances in Cuba to
The Cuban dissidents also recalled that their releases do not
necessarily mean that human rights have improved in Cuba and they
denounced the fact that "almost all of the prisoners in general suffer
dreadful conditions in the jails" on the island.
Cuba has promised to release all 52 of the 75 dissidents rounded and up
and jailed in the "Black Spring" crackdown of March 2003 who remain
The original announcement, made by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, specified that
five detainees would be released immediately and leave for Spain with
their families. Since then, 15 more have agreed to go into what they
hope will be temporary exile. They and their families are expected to
travel to Madrid in the coming days.
Those among the 52 prisoners who reject the option of going to Spain are
to be freed in stages over the next three or four months.
Roughly a score of the Group of 75 were previously paroled on health