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Posted November 07, 2010 by publisher in Cuba Human Rights

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Paul Haven | Canadian Press

The wives and mothers of Cuba’s most prominent political prisoners marched through the leafy streets of the capital Sunday, demanding the government honor an agreement to release their loved ones by the end of the day — or face protests and international condemnation.

With the deadline approaching and no word on the men’s fate, a standoff between President Raul Castro and the island’s small but vocal opposition community appeared imminent. One dissident vowed to start a hunger strike if the 13 prisoners are not in their homes by Monday, and a human rights leader warned the government was playing with fire.

“To not release them would be fatal to the promise given to the Church, and a fraud against the international community,” said Elizardo Sanchez, head of the Havana-based Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, the only human rights group tolerated on the island.

Castro agreed following a meeting with Roman Catholic Cardinal Jamie Ortega to release 52 prisoners of conscience held since a 2003 crackdown on peaceful dissent.

The July 7 deal called for all the prisoners to be free in three to four months, a period that ends at midnight Sunday.

“It would be strange” if the men are not released, said Father Jose Felix Perez, who co-ordinates Cuba’s Catholic Bishops Conference and usually celebrates Mass for the Damas de Blanco, or Ladies in White, the dissident group made up of family members of the 2003 prisoners. “It is not what we thought would happen.”

Cuban officials have declined to comment on the deadline.

At first, the government moved swiftly to make good on the deal, sending 39 prisoners into exile in Spain, along with their families. Authorities even agreed to release another 14 prisoners who were in jail for violent — but politically motivated — crimes. They too were sent to Spain, though the agreement struck with the Church made no mention of exile being a condition for release.

But progress has ground to a halt recently.

The remaining 13 prisoners of conscience have refused to leave the island, a direct challenge to the government. Some say they will continue their fight for democratic political change the moment they leave jail.

As the hours ticked down Sunday, a confrontation appeared to be looming.

“We won’t stop fighting, whether they release them or not,” said Laura Pollan, a Damas leader, following a quiet protest by 30 women Sunday on Havana’s grand Fifth Avenue thoroughfare. Her husband, Hector Maseda, 67, is serving a 20-year term for treason and other crimes.

Pollan said if the government fails to release the men, “it will show that their word has no value, and that they cannot be believed.”

“But we will wait until midnight to see what happens,” she added.

Pollan said the group would step up its protests if the government breaks its word, though she gave no details.

Guillermo Farinas, a dissident who won Europe’s Sakharov human rights prize in October after staging a 134-day hunger strike in support of the prisoners, has told The Associated Press he will stop eating Monday if the remaining dissidents are not in their homes.

That would likely spark deep criticism of Cuba in European capitals, and could set back efforts to improve ties with the continent that have been frayed since the 2003 arrests.

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  1. Follow up post #1 added on November 07, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    “The July 7 deal called for all the prisoners to be free in three to four months, a period that ends at midnight Sunday.”

    I’m glad the Ladies in White are taking this comment literally. Let’s hope this puts more pressure on Raul so he has to do something.

    First he has to ask Fidel for approval then he might talk to the church. Then he’ll consider his own interests.

    I like these parts of the article:

    “The remaining 13 prisoners of conscience have refused to leave the island, a direct challenge to the government. Some say they will continue their fight for democratic political change the moment they leave jail.”

    AND

    “Pollan said the group would step up its protests if the government breaks its word, though she gave no details.”

    Let’s see Raul wiggle out of this one.



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  2. Follow up post #2 added on November 12, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Alejandrina Garcia told The Associated Press today that the Cuban government has quietly announced that her husband, Diosdado Gonzalez at the Combinado del Sur jail in Matanzas was told on Tuesday that he will be allowed to be free within 30 and that he will be able to stay in Cuba.

    The Cuban government has exiled most released prisoners as a condition of their release.

    The Cuban official told Mr. Gonzalez that the remaining twelve prisoners from the Cuban Black Spring would also be released in 15 to 30 days.

    He is serving a 20-year sentence for treason and other charges.

    Other quiet announcements may be coming in the near future with an official announcement perhaps next week.



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  3. Follow up post #3 added on November 14, 2010 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    We are happy to report that Cuban political prisoner Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique has been released from jail and is back at his Centro Habana apartment.

    He will not be exiled to Spain but will be on parole.

    This is a good sign that others will be released. I also think that this release in particular implies that Fidel is not interfering with Raul’s work.

    Maybe this time it is different?

    If so, how long will it last?



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  4. Follow up post #4 added on November 15, 2010 by Cubana with 282 total posts

    I love this comment by the priest:  “It is not what we thought would happen.”
    It is EXACTLY what I thought would happen. This is a communist government, therefore it lies, to its people and the world. It will now spin out as long as possible the release of the others who refuse forced exile. Everyone needs to keep up the pressure on Raul.


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