Thursday, 14 Oct 2010, 6:37 PM MDT
(AFP) - Cuba has authorized the family of dissident Orlando Zapata, who
died in February after an 85-day hunger strike, to emigrate directly to
the United States, Zapata's mother told AFP Thursday.
"They told me that the government had authorized the departure of the
whole family and that we are going directly to the United States, but
I'm not going until they give me my son's ashes," said Reina Tamayo, the
In a related development Thursday, opposition leaders said five other
dissidents had been granted approval to go the United States.
Tamayo said the government's offer was communicated to her October 11 by
Roman Catholic Bishop Emilio Aranguren of the eastern province of
Holguin, where she lives.
Aranguren was traveling and unavailable for comment, while officials at
the U.S. Interest Section in Havana had no immediate comment. Tamayo
said she had received no information from the U.S. Interest Section.
Tamayo, 62, was in Havana Thursday to meet with officials in the office
of Cardinal Jaime Ortega to learn of the details of the offer.
Ortega held a high-level meeting with President Raul Castro in May that
resulted in the government agreeing to release 52 of the 75 political
prisoners it jailed in a widespread 2003 crackdown.
Tamayo's four adult children -- three sons and a daughter -- along with
their families were also authorized to travel to the United States.
Church officials agree that they should leave "because we are being
harassed, we cannot live here," Tamayo said.
The slow process of releasing Cuba's political prisoners is supported by
Spain, which has welcomed 38 prisoners of the released prisoners and
their families. One ex-prisoner traveled to Chile, and another traveled
to the United States.
Orlando Zapata, a 42 year-old laborer who was single and had no
children, died on February 23 after an 85 day-long hunger strike. His
death unleashed a wave of criticism in the United States and European Union.
Cuba denies it holds any political prisoners and calls dissidents
"mercenaries" funded by the United States and a conservative
Meanwhile, Elizardo Sanchez, a key leader of the Cuban opposition, said
five other dissidents who had been released from prison in recent years
from the same group had been granted permission to go to the United States.
He said Oscar Espinosa Chepe, Jorge Olivera, Carmelo Diaz, Roberto de
Miranda and Margarito Broche, who were released from prison for health
reasons, were contacted because "apparently there is a tendency by the
authorities to permit the emigration of those released."
Espinosa and Olivera reportedly rejected the offer, while Diaz, Miranda
and Broche accepted.