Sunday, February 24, 2008

Two Cuban Librarians Freed

There was some good news from Cuba last week. Besides Fidel Castro stepping down, I mean.

Last Sunday, four Cuban dissidents were freed as a goodwill gesture to Spain's foreign minister:

Four Cuban dissidents arrived in Madrid yesterday after being freed by Fidel Castro's government in a deal negotiated with Spain, the Spanish foreign ministry said.

All the men had been imprisoned since 2003.

"The decision was made unilaterally by the Cuban authorities and we are very satisfied," Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said, noting the move came after dialogue with Cuba.

The four, named by Spanish media as Pedro Pablo Alvarez Ramos, Omar Pernet Hernandez, Jose Gabriel Ramon Castillo and Alejandro Gonzalez Raga, were released Saturday and flew to Spain with their families, dissident sources in Cuba said.

According to Walter Skold, two of the four, Pernet and Alvarez, are independent librarians. The BBC notes that Alvarez has spoken out about the brutal treatment he and his fellow prisoners received:

"Imagine what it's like to live in a penal population with delinquents, murderers, unscrupulous people of all types," said Mr Alvarez.

He described the high-security prison where he was held as being plagued by mosquitoes with severe humidity.

"They are practically concentration camps, or more than concentration camps, camps of physical and moral destruction," he told the Associated Press.

Britain's Sunday Telegraph quotes Jose Castillo providing additional details on the vile conditions in Castro's prisons:

Mr Castillo, 50, a journalist who wrote articles critical of the regime, told The Sunday Telegraph: "It was terrible. It was like being in a desert in which sometimes there is no water, there is no food, you are tortured and you are abused.

"This was not torture in the textbook way with electric prods, but it was cruel and degrading. They would beat you for no reason even when you were in hospital.

"At other times they would search you for no reason, stripping you bare and humiliating you. There was one particular commander at a jail in Santa Clara who seemed to take delight in handing out beatings to the prisoners."

Mr Castillo, who claims he was denied proper medical aid for diabetes and heart problems, added: "We are nothing more than a reflection of the human cost of the fight being waged by the Cuban people."

According to the Telegraph, there are still another 250 Cuban political prisoners being held in Cuban prisons. Fidel Castro may have stepped aside for his brother Raul, but the Caribbean Gulag he created lives on.


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