Dissidents in Cuba
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Czech foreign minister: number of Cuban political prisoners still enormous

Czech foreign minister: number of Cuban political prisoners still enormous

KAREL JANICEKAssociated Press Writer

Released : Friday, February 01, 2008 9:18 AM

PRAGUE, Czech Republic-The Czech foreign minister pledged his country's
support to Cuban dissidents, saying Friday that the number of political
prisoners in Cuba remains enormously high.

Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg made the remarks after meeting in
Prague with Cuban dissident Hector Palacios, who was released from Cuban
prison in 2006 for health reasons and has been undergoing treatment in
Spain.

He and his wife, dissident Gisela Delgado, have been touring European
countries to inform about the situation in Cuba.

"The sad thing is that there still is a great number of political
prisoners in Cuba," Schwarzenberg said. "The number is still enormous."

Schwarzenberg himself was expelled from Cuba three years ago, forced to
board a plane to Paris one day before a mass dissident assembly that he
had planned to attend. At the time Schwarzenber was a member of the
upper chamber of Czech parliament, the Senate.

The Czech government has been a staunch critic of Fidel Castro's
government in Cuba, and previously has offered to help political
dissidents in the communist island nation.

"We simply won't stop our support to the (Cuban) opposition,"
Schwarzenberg said Friday.

Palacios said he hoped the European Union could help bring change to his
Caribbean nation, where he said the opposition was growing stronger.

"I hope that in the near future, in a year or two, Cuba will become a
free country with the help from the European Union," Palacios said
through an interpreter. "The Cuban opposition has strengthened … and
the regime of Fidel Castro has been weakened due to his incurable
disease, which opens huge space for changes."

He said that of some 250 political prisoners in Cuba at the moment, 34
were seriously ill.

Palacios was among 75 dissidents rounded up in March 2003 on charges
they were U.S. mercenaries working to undermine Cuba's communist system,
accusations the activists and Washington denied. All 75 were convicted
and sentenced to prison terms ranging from six to 28 years. Palacios was
sentenced to a 25 years.

Palacios said he was grateful to the Spanish government for helping
secure his release, but said Spain remained a rare example of an EU
country that supported the current Cuban government.

Schwarzenberg said he had been holding talks with his Spanish
counterpart as well as foreign ministers in other EU countries toward
making a "joint effort" to help change on the island.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material
may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

http://calibre.mworld.com/m/m.w?lp=GetStory&id=291296971

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