BY PABLO BACHELET
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON - (KRT) - Leading Cuban dissident Raul Rivero and two others recently freed from prison hope to leave the island soon to at least temporarily escape Havana’s tight security controls, friends said Thursday.
Rivero, an internationally recognized poet and journalist, plans to move his family to Spain and return to Havana after a year, said Ricardo Trotti, a friend and director of the Free Press Department of the Miami-based Inter American Press Association.
Rivero was one of 75 dissidents arrested in a crackdown in March of 2003 and sentenced to long jail terms after mostly one-day trials, accused of collaborating with the United States to undermine Fidel Castro’s communist system. Rivero was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
He and 13 other dissidents were paroled for ``health reasons’’ last year, but not before they were warned by government security agents that they could be sent back to jail at any moment if they did or said the wrong thing.
Two other freed dissidents, Manuel Vazquez Portal and Jorge Olivera, also are expected to leave soon and several others are mulling the option, according to fellow dissidents on the island interviewed by phone.
Trotti said he had spoken to Rivero on Wednesday. ``He is optimistic ... that he will be allowed to leave Cuba at the beginning of February, I think under the condition that he return after one year,’’ he told The Miami Herald.
A longtime reporter for Cuba’s government media monopoly, Rivero publicly broke with the government after signing a letter in 1991 calling for the release of political prisoners. He has a standing invitation from Granada, Spain, to spend a year there to finish two books. The invitation includes a stipend, a home and visas for his immediate family members, including his ailing mother, Trotti said.
But Rivero and his family have yet to obtain their Cuban passports, Spanish visas and, more importantly, the Cuban government’s permit to leave the island.
``If I request to leave permanently, then the Cuban government will be very happy,’’ said Marta Beatriz Roque, another of 14 dissidents freed. ``But I don’t think I should be the one leaving the country. The one who should leave is Fidel Castro, who has ruined the life of Cubans.’‘