Next week, you will see here and, hopefully elsewhere, a lot about the fifth anniversary of the Cuban “black spring” of 2003, when the dictatorship arrested and imprisoned some 75 journalists, librarians, human rights and democracy activists and other dissidents.
While most of the focus will be on the 55 who remain in the gulag, we also remember the 20 who have been released, mostly because of their poor health. The dictatorship will put up with bad press, especially since it gets so little of it from some media, but having a prisoner of consicience while in their custody is unacceptable.
Of course, those who have been released — except for the one who has since passed away — are now under a different sort of custody by the state. Their parole is conditional, which means if the dictatorship wanted and so dared, it could send them back to prison, no excuses needed. And forget about being able to leave the country to receive medical care or to just be free, although there have been exceptions.
One of the former prisoners who has been denied permission to travel to the United States is Margarito Broche Espinosa. Broche’s health has worsened in recent weeks, according to a report from independent journalist Yoel Espinosa Medrano, posted at Miscelaneas de Cuba.
Broche, who is now about 50, had worked for more than a decade as a human rights activist — especially on behalf of balseros, or “raft people,” who had been returned to Cuba after trying to flee the island — when he was arrested in March 2003. The next month, he was convicted of “threatening the independence, soverignity and economy” of the country, and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The next year, however, he was paroled because of his poor health. But that has not stopped Broche’s work for a free Cuba. Last year, he helped form and was elected president of a new group, the Council of Human Rights Rapporteurs, to monitor the human rights situation in Cuba.
Meanwhile, Broche’s health has worsened. in his report, Espinosa Medrano writes that Broche is suffering from angina, has little appetite and has gained weight because his body is retaining fluid. He also has difficulty controlling his blood pressure.
The United States has granted Broche a visa to travel to this country, but so far State Security has denied him permission to leave.
I guess having him die now, would not be such an embarassment.
(Cross-posted at Uncommon Sense.)