Seven political prisoners who were the first to be released under the deal negotiated with the dictatorship by the government of Spain and the Catholic Church boarded two planes yesterday afternoon with their families to begin their forced exile in Spain.
Seven Cuban political prisoners freed; flown to Madrid
The first seven political prisoners freed by Cuba left for Spain Monday after police escorted them from prison to the airport and a reunion with relatives — including one who donned the same white dress she wore during protests by the Ladies in White.
The seven ex-prisoners and about 40 relatives boarded Iberia and Air Europa jetliners for the flight to Madrid, according to media reports from Havana and Spain.
Among them were dissident Julio Gálvez and his wife Irene Viera, who wore the same gauzy white dress she has worn almost every Sunday during marches by the Ladies in White demanding the release of male relatives jailed since 2003.
“The car to take her to airport picked her at up at 4 (pm) on the nose, and she wore the same white dress,” her brother, Luis Cataneo, told El Nuevo Herald by telephone from Havana. She also took articles published by Gálvez, an independent journalist sentenced to 15 years.
Spanish foreign ministry authorities identified the seven as Gálvez; Ricardo Gonzalez Alfonso, another journalist serving 20 years; Pablo Pacheco; Omar Ruiz; Antonio Villareal; José Luis García Paneque; and Léster González.
Further into the article, Tamayo does an excellent job of addressing the issue of forced exile and the decision by some of these dissidents to not accept banishment from their own country. Two very important and relevant issues that the Church and the Spanish government prefer not to address:
Catholic church officials in Havana, meanwhile, announced that a total of 20 jailed have agreed to leave for Spain as part of an agreement by the Raúl Castro government to free the last 52 dissidents of the 75 jailed during a 2003 crackdown known as the island’s Black Spring.
At least six others have refused the offer of exile, said Laura Pollán, spokeswoman for the Ladies in White — female relatives of the 52 who have staged weekly protests in Havana demanding the release of their men. There was no word on the decisions of the other 26.
Human rights activists complained the government was keeping the dissidents in prison until the last minute so it could put psychological pressure on them to leave the island instead of staying and continuing their opposition work.
Church officials have said that any departures will be voluntary, but gave no details on the process.
Speaking to reporters in Spain, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos did not refer to the complaints of forced exile and said the important thing was Castro’s decision to “definitively” end the issue of political prisoners in Cuba.
As days continue to pass and more of these 52 dissidents refuse to be forcibly exiled, more details of the secret negotiations that decided the fate of 52 Cubans, none of which were allowed to voice an opinion as to their future and the future of their families, will eventually come to light.