Cuba releases dissident from 2003 crackdown
Mario Enrique Mayo Hernandez, an activist from the central-eastern province of Camaguey, walked free Thursday morning, his sister Marilu Mayo Hernandez told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Mayo Hernandez is the only member of the original group to be freed this year. The other 14 were freed last year, half of them in December 2004.
“They told us this morning that we were to go pick him up,” Marilu Mayo Hernandez said. “We cried we were so happy.”
The sister said Mayo Hernandez, a 41-year-old attorney, got a one-year medical parole for his high blood pressure and emotional problems. The other 14 also were freed early for medical reasons.
Fidel Castro’s communist government did not comment on the latest release. In a report to the United Nations early this year, Cuba described the other 14 early releases as an example of “humanism, without rancor and hate.”
Longtime human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez said he hoped Mayo Hernandez would be the first of several political prisoners released this year.
“This perhaps could be a wider process,” said Sanchez of the nongovernmental Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which tracks the island’s political prisoners. “We’ll be alert.”
Governments and rights groups around the globe issued strong protests in March 2003 when Cuba rounded up the 75 independent journalists, opposition politicians, rights activists and others in a wide crackdown on the opposition.
Cuban courts convicted the activists on charges of being mercenaries for the U.S. government trying to undermine Castro’s government — charges that the dissidents and Washington denied.
Among those released last year were international renowned journalist and poet Raul Rivero and the only woman in the group, Martha Beatriz Roque.