Dissidents in Cuba
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February 2008
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Cuban dissidents arrive in Spain

Cuban dissidents arrive in Spain

Four dissidents who were released on Saturday after spending years in a
Cuban prison for their political beliefs have flown into Spain, Spanish
state radio reports.

Radio RN1 said the Cubans landed in Madrid accompanied by 13 relatives
and friends on Sunday afternoon.

"I talked with three of the four late last night when they were on the
plane and preparing to leave," said Miriam Leiva, wife of Oscar Espinosa
Chepea, a recently freed dissident and economist.

Spain's air force sent a jet to pick up the four Cubans to transport
them to an air base in Madrid, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

A rights group and Spanish media named the four as Pedro Pablo Alvarez
Ramos, Omar Pernet Hernandez, Jose Gabriel Ramon Castillo and Alejandro
Gonzalez Raga.

Freedom granted

Spain earlier announced that Cuba would free seven of 59 dissidents
imprisoned since 2003.

Leiva, who is a leader of a group of women relatives of jailed
dissidents, said there was no word on the three other dissidents that
were expected to be freed.

The release of the dissidents, the first since August, was based on
health concerns and negotiated by Spain.

Miguel Angel Moratinos, the Spanish foreign minister, said: "The
decision was made unilaterally by the Cuban authorities and we are very


The four dissidents were arrested in a political crackdown ordered by
Fidel Castro, the Cuban leader, in March 2003, which imprisoned 75 of
his opponents for up to 28 years.

The release of the four is believed to be the result of human-rights
talks held in Madrid last week by the Spanish and Cuban governments.

Sixteen others, including Chepe, have been freed on health grounds.

Chepe said the latest releases were a step in the right direction by
Raul Castro, Cuba's acting president, who has been running Cuba since
Fidel Castro was sidelined by illness in July 2006.

Fidel Castro has not appeared in public since.

'No dissidents'

Cuba's main rights group, the illegal but tolerated Cuban Commission for
Human Rights, says there were 234 political prisoners in Cuba at the end
of 2007, down from 283 a year earlier.

Cuba recently announced it would sign the UN International Covenant on
civil and political rights and a similar pact on economic and social
rights by March.

This would oblige Cuba to accept regular UN monitoring of its human
rights record starting in 2009.

The Cuban government denies holding any political prisoners and labels
dissidents "counter-revolutionary mercenaries" on the payroll of the US.


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