Paralyzed Cuban political prisoner arrives in Miami
HAVANA -- A recently freed Cuban political prisoner has arrived in Miami.
Ariel Sigler, 44 and paralyzed from the waist down, was released to his
home in Matanzas province in June as part of a deal between Cuba's
government and the island's Roman Catholic Church.
He obtained a U.S. visa quickly, and subsequently was given permission
to leave the island by Cuban authorities.
Sigler was greeted by Cuban Americans at Miami International Airport on
``I'm going, looking to regain my health,'' he told reporters at the
Havana airport before boarding his flight. ``When I arrive in Miami . .
. they are waiting for me and will take me to Jackson Memorial Hospital,
where I hope to regain my strength.''
Sigler said he eventually planned to return to Cuba ``because this
government's days are numbered.''
``This dictatorship has very little time left,'' he said, ``and I think
this will be a temporary departure.''
Sigler was among 75 opposition activists rounded up in March 2003 and
charged with taking money from Washington to destabilize Cuba's
government. Those imprisoned denied that, as did U.S. officials.
Sigler served more than seven years of a 25-year sentence for treason.
He went to prison an athlete and boxer, but paralysis that occurred
while behind bars requires him to use a wheelchair.
Sigler's release came shortly before Cuba agreed on July 7 to release 52
more political prisoners, a landmark deal that, if completed, would
empty island jails of all 75 Cubans arrested during the crackdown seven
So far, 20 political prisoners have been released as part of the
government's second agreement with the church, and all have flown into
exile in Spain with their families.
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