Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cuban hunger striker Fariñas leaves hospital

Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas, whose long hunger strike helped pressure the Cuban government into releasing political prisoners, left the hospital, not fully recovered, but ready to resume his life of opposition. Three weeks after ending his 135-day fast, Fariñas said in a telphone interview he felt "diminished" and still cannot walk well.
He stopped eating and drinking on Feb. 24 and ended the strike on July 8, a day after the government pledged to release 52 jailed dissidents in a deal with the Catholic Church.
His hunger strike added to international criticism of the Cuban government that followed the Feb. 23 death of imprisoned dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo and the harassment of the opposition group "Ladies in White" during protest marches.
The 48-year-old psychologist and writer collapsed on March 11 and from then on received nutrients and liquids intravenously in a hospital in his hometown of Santa Clara, 168 miles (270 km) east of Havana.
Fariñas, speaking from Santa Clara, told reporters he is eating "small quantities" of food and remains under treatment for a blood clot in his neck that doctors had described as life-threatening.
He said he would spend his first week out of the hospital giving interviews to the international press, then resume his work of editing and writing for a dissident blog.
So far, 20 of the promised 52 prisoners have been released in a process the church said could take four months.
Fariñas said he is prepared to re-launch his hunger strike if the prisoners are not all freed by Nov. 7.
"We're going to wait until the 7th of November to see if the government honours the word it gave to the Catholic Church and to national and international public opinion," he said.
Fariñas had conducted 22 previous hunger strikes, including a seven-month strike seeking improved Internet access.
Cuban officials consider dissidents to be US-backed mercenaries working to subvert the island's communist-led government.

From: Buenos Aires Herald 

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  • Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    Crisis in Cuba?: an analyst’s insight


    Euronews interviewed Carmelo Mesa-Lago, originally Cuban but now a US citizen and Professor Emeritus of Economics and Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

    “Mr Mesa-Lago, last year you returned to Cuba for the first time in 20 years. What is your view of the economic situation in Cuba? Is the island in a state of economic emergency?”

    Carmelo Mesa-Lago:
    “Yes. The island is in its worst economic state since the crisis of the 1990s, after the fall of the global communist model. In Cuba I asked many people the following question: what’s the current situation like compared to that of 1993 and 1994, the hardest years of the crisis? And almost unanimously the answer was: it’s not as bad yet, but we’re getting there.”

    “As an economist, what emergency measures would you recommend to the Cuban government to help it out of this situation?”

    Carmelo Mesa-Lago:
    “Well, for example the Cuban government brought in a reform called the “Delivery of Usufruct Land” or leasing abandoned land to farmers. But it also imposed a series of huge restrictions and very few incentives. It involved a contract for 10 years only, which a peasant farmer could renew if he fulfilled his obligations. But the law was rather vague in cases where the farmer invested in the land, whether he can keep his investment if the government broke the contract or took back the land. It did not have the desired results and in fact in the first trimester of this year there was an overall fall in agricultural production.
    So Cuba needs reforms that are better adapted, like those in China or Vietnam, countries where historically there has been a massive lack of food and huge famines. After their land reforms, these countries were even able to export food products. In fact today, Vietnam exports rice to Cuba.
    And how did they manage this? Simply by giving open ended contracts to farmers, cooperatives and villages. The main factor was that farmers could produce whatever they wanted, sell to whomever they wanted and set their own prices.
    If Cuba did this, and it would be the first reform to introduce and most people agree on that in Cuba, the food problem, which is the government’s worst problem, would be solved within a few years.”

    “One last question: What do you make of Raul Castro’s silence at yesterday’s Revolution Day rally?”

    Carmelo Mesa-Lago:
    “I think it’s a bad signal in terms of economic reforms. It was Jose Machado, the vice president, who addressed the crowd and he just said they would continue with studies and tests but that they would not be rushed into anything or forced into knee-jerk reactions; that they would do things one step at a time so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
    I think what he means by mistakes are the small changes made in the 1990s to some elements of the market economy.
    In Machado’s speech and the speech given by the Communist Party leader in the Villa Clara province, they both underlined the importance of ideology, the ideological battle. And that reminds us of Fidel Castro’s famous battle of ideas at the start of this century, which spoke of the importance of militancy and the need to support Venezuela, Hugo Chavez’s idea of a war with Colombia.
    Before July 26, they signed, in Caracas, a very important agreement on 300 projects between Venezuela and Cuba. The July 26 ceremony was in honour of Bolivar and solidarity with Venezuela because, of course, Venezuela is crucial to the survival of the Cuban system.”

    From: EuroNews

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  • Monday, July 26, 2010

    CastroCare in Crisis: Lessons of ‘Single-Payer’ Health Care

    The single-payer crowd, which advocates for government monopoly over people’s right to access medical services, is ready for the next big push.  Obamacare was just the “appetizer,” according to activists at the Netroots conference this week.  Maybe it’s time to check in to see how “single payer” works in reality.  Destination: Havana.

    Although Cuba’s government commits 16 percent of its budget to health care, the Communist dictatorship’s real health-care “system” is dedicated to serving cash-paying customers from Canada and other countries.

    This comes from a fascinating article in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, “CastroCare in Crisis,” by Laurie Garrett of the Council on Foreign Relations. It’s not news that the Castro brothers profit from medical tourism. Michael Moore infamously shilled for the enterprising Havana Hospital in his movie SiCKO, where he brought 9/11 Ground Zero rescue workers to be treated. The Havana Hospital appears to be a more competitive, patient-centered enterprise than any American general hospital I’ve seen: It posts prices for its services, reports testimonials, and can schedule surgeries on short notice (three days for open-heart surgery)!

    Garrett explains that the hospitals that serve foreigners are owned by a government-owned tourism conglomerate, and serve patients from 70 different countries. Canadians are significant customers. Like Cuba, Canada controls access to medical services through a government monopoly, so citizens cannot get timely care. Unlike Cuba, Canada allows the rest of the economy to operate freely, so Canadians are rich enough to be able to pay just under $7,000 for knee replacements in Cuba (instead of waiting for months in Canada). But what will happen when the Castros are gone?

    Two competing effects, according to Garrett: An influx of U.S. patients will be free to travel to Cuba for treatment, but an exodus of physicians will be free to emigrate to the U.S. Plus, Cuba has the second-oldest population in the Americas, with only one quarter of the population under 40 years of age. Once the Cuban people are free of Communism, their pent-up demand for medical care will also explode. Cuban patients (as opposed to Canadian patients in Cuba) already have to provide their own syringes, sheets, and towels. Soap, disinfectant, and sterile equipment are rare.

    Unfortunately, Garrett does not consider the consequences of Obamacare, which will likely accelerate the international travel of U.S. patients, while minimizing the emigration of Cuban doctors. If Cuba becomes a free society that welcomes foreign capital, investors will soon decide that investing in Cuban hospitals that serve U.S. and other patients is a good bet. There will be plenty of opportunities for Cuban surgeons who stay at home.

    By:  John R. Graham

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  • Friday, July 23, 2010

    Cuba replaces health minister, naming younger man to powerful post in latest Cabinet shift

    HAVANA (AP) — Cuba has replaced its long-serving health minister, the latest in a flurry of recent leadership changes by the government of President Raul Castro.

    Jose Ramon Balaguer, 78, will rejoin the powerful Central Committee of the Communist Party, according to a statement read Thursday night on government-run television. It saluted Balaguer for his work, but offered few details on why he was replaced.

    Balaguer had held the post since 2004, when he was a surprising choice to replace Damodar Pena, an official made health minister in 2002 as part of a then effort to promote younger leaders.

    Trained as a physician, Balaguer was a founding member of Cuba's Communist Party and has been an ideological hard-liner for decades.

    Replacing him will be 43-year-old Roberto Morales, a fellow physician who had been first vice minister of health.

    Cuba provides free health care for all citizens, making the health minister an influential position — but the Cabinet shake-up was one of many of late.

    In June, Cuba fired its transportation minister for professional mistakes and replaced the head of the Sugar Ministry after he admitted incompetence.

    Those moves came after the March 23 replacement of Attorney General Juan Escalona Reguera, who fought under Fidel and Raul Castro in the rebel army that toppled dictator Fulgencio Batista on New Year's Day 1959. Health problems were cited as the reason.

    Also in March, Rogelio Acevedo, who as a teenager fought alongside the Castros and Ernesto "Che" Guevara, was abruptly dismissed as the overseer of Cuba's airlines and airports for unexplained reasons.

    Cuba has since been awash with rumors that Acevedo was secretly running his own airline and otherwise misusing state aircraft. The speculation was eventually mentioned in a controversial essay on state corruption posted on a government website in April.

    From: Fox8

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  • Canadians rage at Cuba over trapped teen

    TORONTO - Canadians from coast to coast have been voicing their outrage after learning of 19-year-old Cody LeCompte's plight in Cuba.
    And they are even more dismayed to learn that after three months of detention in the communist country -- for a car accident that he claims wasn't his fault -- our government has been content to wait for justice to run its course rather than take swift action to help the young man get back home.
    'Wept with anger'
    "Today I wept with anger," one Sun reader wrote on a Facebook group dedicated to helping Cody after reading the story that appeared in Thursday's paper.

    "I am appalled that our government is failing him," the reader added.
    "We must unite and take action in bringing Cody home, immediately!" 
    The Simcoe teen was on a two-week vacation with his mom that was supposed to be a reward for getting into college.
    Instead his life has been turned upside down because of a bizarre law that forces tourists involved in accidents where a Cuban citizen is seriously hurt to prove his or her innocence before being allowed to leave the country.
    Cody's mom, Danette, who is at her son's side because she's afraid to leave him alone in Santa Lucia, so far is $30,000 in debt after paying for lawyer's fees, a room at the resort and other expenses.
    She is on the verge of financial ruin and Cody hasn't been charged with anything.
    Danette was in the rental car, so was her cousin and his Cuban fiancee, and Cody was driving when they were allegedly "broadsided" by a truck April 29.
    They were all hospitalized but have since recovered from their injuries, including the fiancee who underwent surgery for her damaged liver. Apparently, the only one still hurting is Cody.
    He and his mom were unavailable Thursday because they were meeting with their lawyer.
    "I have never been to Cuba and never will go!" Sun reader Steven Leech wrote on, adding the feds should "put a travel ban on Cuba and cut off all foreign aid" to the impoverished country.
    Similar sentiments were echoed by callers from across Canada to Roy Green, on AM 640. The talk radio show host has been at the forefront of efforts to bring the teen home. But it appears the anger of Canadians has been heard.
    "While at the African Union Summit in Uganda, Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, has met with senior Cuban officials and raised LeCompte's case directly," spokesman Dana Cryderman said.

    From: CNEWS

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  • Tuesday, July 20, 2010

    Government publishes charges against Chilean businessman

    In an unusual step, the Interior Ministry published in the Gaceta Oficial on Monday a citation and charges against Chilean businessman Max Marambio.

    The citation gives him until July 29 to appear before a Cuban investigator; otherwise Cuba will issue an arrest warrant. Marambio, 63, lives in Santiago de Chile. He has not been to Cuba since last fall. The owner of several companies in Cuba is accused of bribery, damaging acts to economic activity or contracting, embezzlement, falsification of bank and commerce documents, and fraud.

    The Cuban case against Marambio made headlines in Chile earlier this year. Amid heightened rhetoric against corruption, Cuban authorities began investigating Marambio, who had fostered intimate ties to the Cuban government. According to a terse note published by Granma April 15, Cuban prosecutors were investigating “irregularities and violations of existing laws” at Alimentos Río Zaza S.A., a company owned by Marambio.

    One witness was found dead April 6 in his Havana apartment. Roberto Baudrand, 59, the top Chilean manager in Cuba for Marambio’s Alimentos Río Zaza S.A., had been under orders not to leave the island and was twice cited to report to police to testify as a witness. According to the Cuban autopsy, Baudrand’s death was caused by a mix of pharmaceuticals and alcohol. At least two Cuban employees of Marambio’s companies had been detained earlier. In December, the accountant of ING holding and the Cuban representative in the Río Zaza food and agricultural joint venture were arrested in Havana. ING is a 50-percent shareholder in Río Zaza; the Cuban state controls the other half. ING also holds a 50-percent share of the Sol y Son travel agency.

    The investigation centers on the unauthorized use of government aircraft for business, reported Chile’s Radio Bío-Bío, without citing sources. On March 8, Raúl Castro replaced Gen. Rogelio Acevedo González as head of the Instituto de Aeronáutica Civil de Cuba, the government agency that regulates civil aviation and operates the country’s airports and state airlines. Acevedo had been in charge of the agency since 1989; his wife Ofelia Liptak is commercial director of Río Zaza and an ING executive. In April, Chile’s Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno told reporters his government knew about the Cuban investigation against Marambio’s companies, but that he wasn’t aware of any specific charges.

    Max Marambio, a student leader in Chile in the 1960s, was trained by Cuba to be President Salvador Allende’s personal guard. Later, from 1978 to 1983, he was an executive at Corporación CIMEX, today Cuba’s largest state company. In this position, Marambio helped Cuba circumvent the U.S. embargo with international business activities he directed. He also was on special missions abroad for Cuba’s intelligence during the 1970s.

    In 1985, Marambio went into business for himself, founding ING. As recently as February 2009, Cuban authorities during a visit of former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet presented ING subsidiary Río Zaza as an exemplary joint venture. But Marambio’s relations with Cuba abruptly cooled last year. He complained to Cuban officials last fall about the freezing of $23 million in Cuban bank accounts. Cash flow problems, including a $7.5 million debt to supplier TetraPak, forced Marambio in February to temporarily halt production at two Río Zaza plants in Cuba, idling 500 employees.

    From: Cuba Standard 

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  • Friday, July 16, 2010

    Five Cuban dissidents reject proposed exile

    Havana, July 14 (DPA) Five of 52 dissidents that Cuba has agreed to release from prison and send into exile, have refused to go to Spain in line with the deal.
    As the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco, a group of wives and mothers of dissidents) said Wednesday, the five have informed Havana’s Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega of their decision.
    Several released political prisoners have arrived in Spain since Tuesday and were to decide whether to stay there or go elsewhere, under an agreement between Cuban and Spanish authorities brokered by the Roman Catholic Church.
    According to the Ladies in White, Pablo Arguelles Moran, Eduardo Diaz Fleitas, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzerique, Regis Iglesias Ramirez and Felix Navarro Rodriguez have refused to leave the communist island.
    Cuba agreed last week to release 52 political prisoners after talks mediated by Spain and the Catholic Church. Spain is expected to receive up to 20 of the dissidents.
    If any of the exiled prisoners wanted to return to Cuba, they would need special permission from the Cuban government.

    From: CalcuttaTube

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  • Thursday, July 15, 2010

    Cuba’s Maritime Massacre

    In the predawn darkness of July 13, 1994, seventy-two desperate Cubans – old and young, male and female – sneaked aboard a decrepit, but seaworthy tugboat in Havana Harbor, and set off for the U.S. and the prospect of freedom.
    Let Jack Nicholson label their captive homeland “paradise.” Let Bonnie Raitt rasp out her ditty calling it a “happy little island.” Let Ted Turner hail their slave-master as a “helluva guy.” Let Democratic party boss Frank Mankiewics proclaim Castro “one of the most charming men I’ve ever met.” Let Michael Moore hail the glories of Cuba’s healthcare. Let Barbara Walters praise: “you have brought great health to your country.” But the people boarding the tug knew better. And for a simple reason: the cruel hand of fate had slated them to live under Fidel Castro and Che Guevara’s handiwork.
    The lumbering craft cleared the harbor, and five foot waves started buffeting the tug. The men sprung to action as the impromptu crew, while mothers, sisters and aunts hushed the terrified children, some as young as one. Turning back was out of the question.
    A few miles into the turbulent sea, 30-year-old Maria Garcia felt someone tugging her sleeve. She looked down and it was her 10-year-old son, Juan. “Mami, look!” and he pointed behind them toward shore. “What’s those lights?”
    “Looks like a boat following us, son,” she stuttered while stroking his hair. “Calm down, mi hijo (my son). Try to sleep. When you wake up, we’ll be with our cousins in a free country. Don’t worry.” In fact, Maria suspected the lights belonged to Castro patrol boats coming out to intercept them.
    In seconds, the patrol boats were alongside the tug – Whack! – with its steel prow, the closest patrol boat rammed the back of the tug. People were knocked around the deck like bowling pins. But it looked like an accident, right? Rough seas and all. Could happen to anyone, right?
    Hey, watch it!” a man yelled as he rubbed the lump on his forehead. “We have women and children aboard!” Women held up their squalling children to get the point across. If they’d only known.
    This gave the gallant Castroites nice targets for their water cannon. Whoosh! The water cannon was zeroed and the trigger yanked. The water blast shot into the tug, swept the deck, and mowed the escapees down, slamming some against bulkheads, and blowing others off the deck into the five-foot waves.
    Mi Hijo! Mi Hijo!” Maria screamed, as the water jet slammed into her, ripping half the clothes off her body and ripping Juan’s arm from her grasp. “Juanito! Juanito!” She fumbled frantically around her, still blinded by the water blast. Juan had gone spinning across the deck and now clung desperately to the tug’s railing 10 feet behind Maria, as huge waves lapped his legs.
    Whack! Another of the steel patrol boats turned sharply and rammed the tug from the other side. Then – crack! another from the front. Whack! The one from behind slammed the vessel again. The tug was surrounded. It was obvious now: The ramming was no accident — and in Cuba, you don’t do something like this without strict orders from way above.
    “We have women and children aboard!” The men yelled. “We’ll turn around! Ok?!”
    Whack! The Castroites answered the plea by ramming them again. And this time, the blow from the steel prow was followed by a sharp snapping sound from the wooden tug. In seconds, the tug started coming apart and sinking. Muffled yells and cries came from below. It turns out the women and children who had scrambled into the hold for safety after the first whack had in fact scrambled into a watery tomb.
    With the boat coming apart and the water rushing in around them, some got death grips on their children, and managed to scramble or swim out. But not all. The roar from the water cannons and the din from the boat engines muffled most of the screams, but all around people were screaming, coughing, gagging and sinking.
    Fortunately, a Greek freighter bound for Havana had happened upon the scene of slaughter and sped to the rescue. Only then did one of the Castro boats throw out some life preservers on ropes, and start hauling people in, pretending they’d been doing it all along.
    Maria Garcia lost her son, Juanito, her husband, brother, sister, two uncles, and three cousins in the maritime massacre. In all, 43 people drowned, 11 of them children. Carlos Anaya was 3 when he drowned, Yisel Alvarez was 4. Helen Martinez was 6 months old.
    And all this death and horror to flee from a nation that experienced net immigration throughout the 20th century, where boats and planes brought in many more people than they took out – except on vacation. (Despite what you saw in The Godfather, actually, in 1950, more Cubans vacationed in the U.S. than Americans in Cuba, as befit a nation with a bigger middle class than Switzerland.)
    Thirty one people were finally plucked from the seas and hauled back to Cuba where all were jailed or put under house arrest. They hadn’t been through enough, you see. However, a few later escaped Cuba on rafts and reached Miami. Hence we have Maria Garcia’s gut-wrenching testimony, which was presented to the UN, the OAS and Amnesty International, who all filed “complaints,” reports, and “protests.”
    One may wonder whether the massacre was caused by a rogue operation of crazed deviants. No government could possibly condone, much less directly order such a thing.
    Wrong. Nothing is random in Stalinist Cuba. One of the gallant water-cannon gunners was even decorated (personally) by Castro. Perhaps for expert marksmanship. A three-year old child presents a pretty small target. A six-month old baby, an even smaller one. Magnificent job defending the glorious revolution, companero.


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  • Monday, July 12, 2010

    Cuba dissidents leave for Spain

    The first six of 52 political prisoners in Cuba to be freed have left the country to start a new life as Cuban exiles in Spain.
    The releases on Monday come as a result of a deal between the Cuban government and Catholic Church officials, in which it was agreed that at least 17 jailed dissidents would be granted asylum in Spain.
    The 17 are among a group of 52 jailed opposition leaders, journalists and activists the Cuban government has agreed to release, following a meeting on Wednesday between Raul Castro, Cuba's president, and Jaime Ortega, a Roman Catholic cardinal.
    Jose Luis Garcia Paneque, 24, one of the prisoners released on Monday, called from an Air Europa jet to Madrid as it was taking off from the Havana airport to confirm the departure for the news agency Reuters.
    He also said five more prisoners were scheduled to leave Havana on a later flight on Monday in the first wave of Cuba's biggest release of jailed dissidents since 1998.
    "You can imagine how a man in prison for seven years, including 17 months in solitary, must feel," Garcia said of his new freedom.
    Lengthy jail terms
    The prisoners were accompanied by members of their family, Garcia said. All of them were kept away from reporters at the Havana airport.
    The detainees were among 75 political dissidents arrested in a 2003 government crackdown that resulted in lengthy prison terms on treason and other charges.
    They have been serving sentences ranging from 13 to 24 years for violations of Cuban laws aimed at curbing opposition, and what the government views as subversive activities.
    The Catholic Church has taken an increasingly public role in relations between the government and the opposition since the death of a jailed dissident hunger striker in February.
    Church officials announced on Thursday the names of the first five prisoners to be released, and said all had accepted asylum in Spain, as did those on the list of the other 12 announced on Saturday.
    Parties reticent
    Neither the church nor the Cuban government has said whether agreeing to exile is a requirement of release, with Ortega describing exile as an "option".
    The meeting was brokered by Miguel Angel Moratinos, the Spanish foreign minister.
    While the government's promise to release prisoners has raised hopes on the island, praise from outside has been grudging, particularly from human rights groups and the US.
    Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, praised the development on Thursday, but described the releases as "overdue".
    Amnesty International, the UK-based human-rights group, said it would continue to campaign for all of Cuba's prisoners of conscience to be freed and sent home immediately.

    From: Aljazeera

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  • Sunday, July 11, 2010

    IPI Applauds Release of Cuban Journalists, Other Dissidents

    International Press Institute (IPI) Director David Dadge today praised the expected release of Cuban journalists José Luis Garcia Paneque, Pablo Pancheco Ávila and Lester Luis González Pentón following apparently successful negotiations between President Raúl Castro and Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, Roman Catholic archbishop of Havana, brokered by visiting Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.
    However, IPI expressed disappointment at the fact that its Justice Denied journalist, Omar Rodríguez Saludes, appears due to remain behind bars. Rodríguez, director of the independent news agency Nueva Prensa Cubana in Havana, was arrested on the night of 18 March 2003 and sentenced to 27 years in prison - the longest sentence handed down to any of the 29 journalists arrested in the 2003 crackdown on dissidents.

    “While we welcome this long overdue move by Cuba to release political prisoners detained in the infamous Black Spring crackdown, it is far from enough,” said IPI Director David Dadge. “We call on Cuba to immediately release all the dissidents, including journalists, who remain in prison.”

    The journalists due for release, along with two other political prisoners - Villarreal Antonio Acosta and Luis Milan Fernandez, are expected to be freed in the next few days and flown to Spain, according to reports from the Havana archdiocese. Last week, after a meeting with Cardinal Ortega, Castro released one prisoner and transferred about a dozen others to facilities closer to their family homes.

    The journalists, along with owners of private libraries and members of illegal opposition political parties, were arrested in March 2003 (known as the Cuban “black spring”) as part of a major crackdown by the government on dissidents. Nearly 80 people were arrested in the sweep; most remain in prison. Between 3 and 7 April of that year, the 29 journalists arrested were handed down jail sentences ranging from 14 to 27 years under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy and Article 91 of the Cuban Penal Code, which provides for prison sentences or the death penalty for those who act against “the independence or territorial integrity of the State.”

    Medical doctor and independent journalist José Luis García Paneque was arrested March 18, 2003 and is serving a 24-year sentence. A member of the independent – and illegal -- Manuel Marquez Sterling Journalists’ Association, Garcia Paneque was also head of the independent library in the eastern province of Las Tunas.

    Pablo Pancheco Ávila was also arrested on 18 March and later sentenced to 20 years in prison. Panchero Ávila worked for the unofficial news agency Cooperativa de periodistas Independientes Avilena when he was arrested.

    Freelance journalist Lester Luis González Pentón was sentenced to 20 years in prison and was among the youngest of the writers arrested in 2003.

    According to the Catholic church, 47 other dissidents will be released over the next three to four months.

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  • Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Cuban activist is cautious over prisoner release

    Oswaldo Payá, Cuban political dissident and founder of the ‘Varela Project’, talked to euronews:
    “The government is not talking to the people about this process. It is as if the people don’t have the right to know. The government is not talking to the opposition and if the government is releasing these men just to have them deported, then it means that there is no breakthrough. Instead, it will just be more of the same with more prisoners replacing the other ones.
    Do we want this news? Yes, of course. We hope that this gesture will create a new political momentum for dialogue within Cuba but it has to be accompanied by freedom of speech, the freedom to travel, freedom to meet and a freedom of choice. After 51 years, the people of Cuba don’t want to wait any longer.”
    “Today Cubans see that change is possible. But as long as they don’t have rights, as long as the law is not changed to guarantee those rights, there won’t be real change.”
    “ But if a man has to choose between staying in jail or leaving his country, that is deportation. His dignity is not being respected. We respect the decision that each of the prisoners is making because their families have suffered a lot, although we demand liberation for all the prisoners with no conditions. That would be a real sign of change.”

    From:  EuroNews

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  • Tuesday, July 6, 2010

    Drop in political prisoners in Cuba

    Cuba: The Island  prison

    The number of political prisoners held in Cuban jails has dropped to an all-time low, continuing a gradual trend in recent years of releasing them, a human rights group report says.
    A bi-annual report, issued by the independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights group on Monday, said the communist government of Cuba now holds 167 political prisoners, down from 201 at the end of 2009.
    The commission said that after the 1959 revolution that put Fidel Castro in power, the number of political prisoners had peaked six years later at 15,000.
    But that number has steadily declined, especially in the past seven years, after the government realised that "it does not need to have so many political prisoners to maintain almost complete social control," Elizardo Sanchez, a spokesman for the rights commission, said.
    Sanchez said the group's findings also indicate that the government is readying to free about 40 more jailed dissidents.
    "We are receiving information from the prisons that they are interviewing them, preparing them and asking what they plan to do when they get out," he said.

    Cuban pressure

    The Cuban government has been under increased pressure to free political prisoners, from both domestic and international quarters.
    The Catholic Church entered into dialogue with the government in recent months to try to secure the release of some of the ailing political prisoners, and the Chilean president, Sebastian Pinera, has said his administration would also approach Cuba.
    Miguel Angel Moratinos, the Spanish foreign minister, arrived in Havana, the Cuban capital, on Monday to support the church's efforts and attempt to save the life of a Cuban hunger-striker.
    Cuban media reported earlier in the week that Guillermo Farinas, who has been on a voluntary fast for more than 130 days to demand the release of seriously ill political prisoners, is in danger of dying.
    Although Raul Castro, Cuba's president, has labelled Farinas a common criminal and said the government would not yield to "blackmail", Spain's foreign minister hopes to secure the release of the 26 political prisoners in poor health, thereby meeting Farinas' demand and allowing him to end his hunger strike.

    From:  Aljazeera

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  • Monday, July 5, 2010

    Cuban Political Dissenter Could Die from Hunger Strike

    By  themerryonion
    Guillermo Farinas, 48, has been on a hunger strike since February to demand the release of ill political prisoners in Cuba. He is now at the hospital being fed via intravenous injection.
    However, a blood clot has formed in his neck, which could impede the flow of blood to his heart.
    Doctors will not force feed the man, since that is against medical ethics.
    Farinas is a psychologist and freelance journalist who often reports in contravention of Cuban media restrictions. He began his strike after a political prisoner, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died in jail from his own hunger strike.
    The Cuban government denies the existence of political prisoners, claiming that all prisoners are either common criminals or "mercenaries" of the United States.
    They refuse to be "blackmailed" by Farinas and feel that it will be his own fault if he dies.
    Farinas is calling for the release of 26 specific prisoners who are ill.

    From: AllVoices 

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