By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ | ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
HAVANA—U.S. and European diplomats visited the home of jailed Cuban reporter Raul Rivero Monday, offering support to dissidents imprisoned after last year’s government crackdown on the opposition.
James Cason, chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, and officials from half a dozen European countries arrived together on the same day Rivero was awarded a press freedom prize in Belgrade, Serbia-Montenegro, said Blanca Reyes, Rivero’s wife.
The diplomats said they lamented the imprisonment of all 75 Cuban activists sentenced in April 2003 and called for their immediate release, according to Reyes.
Rivero was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being found guilty of working with U.S. diplomats to undermine Cuba’s socialist system - allegations he and Washington deny. In the crackdown, Cuba cited meetings with Cason among the evidence that some of the dissidents were working for U.S. interests.
The prize was a tribute to Rivero’s “brave and long-standing commitment to independent reporting,” said Koichiro Matsuura, director of the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO.
In March, Cuba protested UNESCO’s decision to award Rivero the prize.
The $25,000 prize, established in 1997, is named after the Colombian journalist murdered in 1987 for denouncing his country’s powerful drug barons.