Freed Cuban dissidents press for change
Guillermo I. Martinez Columnist
July 22, 2010
The release of Cuban political prisoners in small dribs and drabs was
supposed to ease the pressure on Cuba's repressive regime and halt the
barrage of negative publicity.
It hasn't worked. The negative publicity continues. It is not hard to
understand why the attempt at improving relations with Spain, the
European community, and the United States has not worked.
Cuba has conditioned the release of political prisoners to their
acceptance of deportation orders that ban their return to their homeland
forever. At least 10 of those who were going to be released have refused
to leave the island.
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The Ladies in White, who march every Sunday after Mass, have said they
would not be satisfied with the release of only some prisoners. They
made it clear they will continue marching until all political prisoners
in Cuba are released.
And already some of the prisoners who were released and sent to Spain
have protested the way they were treated in jail, and the way in which
they were released.
In an op-ed piece in The New York Times, Ricardo González Alfonso, a
60-year-old independent journalist arrested in the spring of 2003,
described what it was like in Fidel Castro's dungeons. "I was just one
of 75 Cubans imprisoned for our belief that freedom is an achievable
miracle and not a crime against the state," González wrote. "My debut as
a prisoner of conscience came early in 2003, a period subsequently
characterized by the world's press as the Black Spring."
He added: "They say prison is a school, and it's true. I did my best to
be a good student. Zoology was one class we had every day. I learned to
live with rats, and even came, on certain nights of our tropical winter
(which is winter, nevertheless) to stare at them with an urgency not
unlike what people call appetite. I was a solitary friend to the deft
spiders that sometimes freed me from the torturous buzzings and
blood-shedding bites that accompanied my insomnia."
González and the other prisoners now living in Spain have complained
that the assistance the Spanish government promised them when they left
Cuba has not been forthcoming. A spokesperson for Spain's opposition
party said that what the government had done with the Cuban prisoners
was a scandal without precedent. Fidel and Raúl Castro hold the keys to
all the prisons on the island. They also hold the key to when they might
allow all Cubans to live in a democratic state, with the right to own
property, and to freely express their views without fearing
incarceration. That is what the released prisoners want.
Guillermo I. Martínez resides in South Florida. E-mail him at