Cuba: Will More Political Prisoners Be Released?
Church Says There Is Still More to Do
HAVANA, Cuba, APRIL 19, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Cuban President Raúl Castro
is stating that the process of releasing "prisoners of conscience" has
ended, though the archbishopric of Havana noted that there is still work
to be done.
On April 8, 37 former Cuban prisoners arrived in Madrid, Spain, after
being released from prison according to an agreement initiated last July
between the Cuban and Spanish governments, mediated by the Catholic Church.
On the day the prisoners arrived in Madrid, the Spanish foreign affairs
ministry published a note in which it stated that the liberation process
had been concluded as agreed upon.
At the end of the process, a total of 115 former prisoners arrived in
Spain, accompanied by 647 relatives.
Castro also noted the fulfillment of this commitment in his address to
the 6th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) in Havana. He
expressed gratitude to the Spanish government for its part in the process.
However, in a note published April 12, the archbishopric of Havana
suggested that a similar dialogue could continue with governments of
other countries that are prepared to receive former Cuban prisoners.
In addition to receiving the former prisoners, the Spanish authorities
are providing aid in the form of economic assistance, housing, legal
advice, psychological assistance, schooling of minors, including
facilitating the approval of school and university titles, assistance in
work integration and health care.
Three NGOs are also aiding the Cuban exiles: The Red Cross, the Spanish
Commission of Aid to Refugees (CEAR), and the Spanish Catholic
Commission of Migrations Association (ACCEM).
Many of the former prisoners are still waiting to receive work permits,
Europa Press reported, and in the meantime are pursuing sporadic jobs in
plumbing, masonry and carpentry.
In Castro's address, the president also invited his political party to
engage in "severe self-criticism," so as to correct the deficiencies in
the progress of the country.
Former prisoner of conscience Miguel Galbán Gutiérrez commented on the
president's address, noting on his blog that Castro "has made some
adjustments, some slight adjustments in his plans to avoid the riots of
the Arab world splashing him and his angering the population."
Gutiérrez observed that Castro "is moving with caution, very well
advised; the announced dismissals are partially blocked and the
elimination of rationing has been slowed down."