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Posted November 30, 2004 by publisher in Cuba Human Rights

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By ANITA SNOW | Associated Press Writer

Cuba’s communist government freed writer Raul Rivero and another dissident from prison Tuesday, the latest in a series of releases apparently aimed at cleaning up the island’s human rights record.

Cuban dissident writer Raul Rivero is seen with his wife Blanca Reyes and Yenia Perez, left, a girl who lives with the Rivero family, moments after being released from jail, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2004 in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Jose Goitia)
Rivero, among 75 dissidents rounded up in a massive crackdown in March 2003, had been sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of working with the United States to undermine Fidel Castro’s socialist government. Rivero and the other activists denied the charges.

Also freed Tuesday was opposition party member Osvaldo Alfonso Valdes, 39, who was also among the original 75 and had been sentenced to 18 years in prison.

“I don’t have any plans for the future,” Rivero said after he arrived at his Havana home. “I’m still confused.”

Rivero’s wife, Blanca Reyes, said her husband was released on a medical parole after a checkup at a Havana prison hospital for emphysema and cysts on a kidney.

The dissidents released Monday also suffered medical ailments. Economics writer Oscar Espinosa Chepe was hospitalized for months with a liver ailment, Marcelo Lopez has a neurological disorder and Margarito Broche suffered a heart attack behind bars in August.

Castro’s government made no public statement about the releases, but analysts said the government was eager to avoid the possibility the dissidents would die in jail, and to signal flexibility to the European Union and Spain amid warming relations.

The latest releases come just days after Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque announced his country has resumed formal contacts with Spain, although that country had repeatedly criticized last year’s dissident crackdown.

The new Socialist government of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said all Spanish political parties and the European Union should work to encourage the Caribbean island to open up.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Javier Valenzuela, spokesman for Zapatero, who on Tuesday was attending a one-day summit with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Cuenca, Spain.

“We think this has to do with the Spanish government: firmness in its principles while proposing more efficient tactics in its relations with Cuba,” Valenzuela said. “The liberation of a dissident is always a reason for joy for any democrat.”

International human rights groups, however, called on Castro’s government to free the dozens of others still behind bars.

“Cuba’s release of these political prisoners is a welcome move, but many more remain incarcerated in violation of their fundamental rights,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “We call on the Cuban authorities to release all of them.”

Vivanco regretted that the three men released Monday were freed on parole, rather than unconditionally.

“By granting them parole only, the Cuban government leaves open the possibility of returning the dissidents to prison to serve out their sentences in the future,” said Vivanco. “Its a way of intimidating them from exercising their fundamental rights.”

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said it welcomed the release of Espionsa Chepe, one of more than two dozen independent Cuban journalists jailed on the communist-run island.

“Their only offense was doing their jobs,” said the committee’s Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We again call on Cuban authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all imprisoned journalists, and to allow them to work freely.”

After his release, Espinosa Chepe spoke from his book-filled living room, where a small Christmas tree sat atop a refrigerator in the corner. He said he hoped the rest of the prisoners would return home.

“We are nonviolent people, who have not committed any crimes,” he said.

Despite the difficulties suffered in jail, Espinosa Chepe said he did not want to leave Cuba. “I feel Cuban and I want to die in my own country,” he said.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher welcomed the releases but said the detainees never should have been imprisoned in the first place.

“We continue to condemn the unjust incarceration of dozens of other prisoners of conscience in Cuba,” Boucher said. “We hope that they can return to their work to build a truly just and open Cuban society.”

  1. Follow up post #1 added on November 30, 2004 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Seems as thought Spain might have had something to do with this? With Spain being an ally of the United States, can they broker an end to the US Embargo as well?

    With the UN voting overwhelmingly to lift the Embargo, the dissidents in favor of lifing the Embargo, mid west US states and businesses now selling millions of dollars of goods to Cuba, the US buying Billions of dollars of goods from Communist China…tell me again - Who is in favor of maintaining the 40+ year old Embargo? How many people actually support it?

    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on November 30, 2004 by Jesus Perez

    Definitely GOOD news. 

  3. Follow up post #3 added on December 02, 2004 by Ralph

    Yeah!!! That sounds great..

  4. Follow up post #4 added on December 02, 2004 by Jesus Perez

    I’ll tell you who supports it, the Cuban community (most of it) in Miami and as a result of that Mr. Bush for political reasons (election year) and it is also possible that Mr. Bush got a sign from above to bring his brand of democracy to Cuba.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on December 04, 2004 by Ralph

      Me either,of course.Nobody whatsoever reasons,can set-up
      very difficults situations for a people as a whole,nobody
      can whatsoever political agenda be expressed,condemn to live
      in trying times millions of humans,No in Cuba, No in Zimbabwe,
      in nowhere place.Democracy is seems to me could never be—-
      impossed,of course Democracy is so far the better way to—
      build a society life and should be hearthened,but not impossed
      when you see people dying in Zimbabwe of a rampant Hiv infecction, without any minimal care,no retroviral,no antibiotics,nothing in the name of Democracy,you feel gutted and
    cheated,it is improtant separate Mugabe wrongdoing from the
    zimbabwean people,in respect to the Cuban embargo from USA is
    a big failure for American stewardships,is almost a victory
    for Castro and it is,overall,an appalling time of sufferings
    for the very majority of my people,yes,because I am a cuban
    Now and after,and it is blatant to me and to others as well,
    the inhuman roots of any embargo and see them, they are grappling with how to survive this trying times.

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