Cuba Frees 53 Prisoners, U.S. Says
By ELISABETH MALKIN and VICTORIA BURNETTJAN. 12, 2015
MEXICO CITY — The Cuban government has released 53 dissidents it had
promised to free under the accord with Washington to restore diplomatic
relations and step up economic exchanges, United States officials said
The release of the last prisoners on the list was seen as an important
indicator of the Cuban government’s commitment to carrying out the
agreement, which was announced by President Obama and the Cuban
president, Raúl Castro, on Dec. 17.
Yet it was received with skepticism by Cuban opposition figures, who
said the government had released fewer prisoners than the numbers suggested.
It came less than two weeks before Roberta S. Jacobson, the assistant
secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, is to arrive in Cuba
for talks on Jan. 21 and 22. The discussions are to focus on migration
issues but will also be used to discuss the restoration of full
Secretary of State John Kerry sent the list of freed prisoners — which
had been a closely guarded secret — to members of Congress on Monday. He
warned, however, that Cubans still faced many obstacles to free speech.
“We will continue to make clear to the Cuban government that neither
those 53 individuals released, nor any Cuban exercising their universal
right to have their voices heard, be subject to harassment, arrest or
beatings,” he wrote.
The 53 prisoners were on a list that American officials presented to the
Cuban government last summer during the secret negotiations that led to
the Dec. 17 agreement.
But dissidents and human rights activists said the numbers were
misleading. More than a dozen of the 53 prisoners were released before
Dec. 17, and many had already served their sentences, said Elizardo
Sánchez, head of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation, an independent group. “It’s a fraud,” he said by
telephone from Havana. “They just completed the number by including
people they had already released.”
Juan Carlos Vásquez Osoria, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba,
another opposition group, said he was released on Dec. 10 after he
finished a two-year sentence.
“I don’t get why they included me on the list if I had already served my
sentence,” he said by telephone from Santiago de Cuba. “They should have
included other brothers who are still in jail.”
Human rights activists both inside and outside Cuba warned that the
prisoner release was no guarantee that the government had become more
tolerant of open protest.
“For that, we need reforms to our legal system and for the Cuban
government to stop criminalizing human rights activities,” Mr. Sánchez said.
His records show that short-term detentions increased in 2014 to 8,899,
some 30 percent more than in 2013. At the same time as the Cuban
government has been releasing the prisoners, the authorities have
continued to detain opponents of the Castro government.
A performance artist, Tania Bruguera, was arrested three times in
connection with her plans to set up an open microphone in Havana’s
Revolution Square on Dec. 30 and allow Cubans to speak their minds for a
minute. She was later released.
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Danilo Maldonado Machado, a graffiti artist known as El Sexto, was
arrested on Christmas Day as he transported pigs painted with the names
Fidel and Raúl — referring to the president and his elder brother, the
former president — according to independent media. He remains in jail,
Mr. Sánchez said.
Most of those released were fairly new to opposition activities and not
well known, said José Daniel Ferrer, founder of the Patriotic Union of
Cuba. Some 30 members of the group were released, he said, but more
remained in jail.
“The United States needs to keep up the pressure to get all the
political prisoners out,” he said.
Among those released over the past few days were Alexeis, Vianco and
Django Vargas Martín, brothers who were detained in December 2012 and
imprisoned for “public disorder,” according to Amnesty International.
Vianco and Django, who are twins, were just 16 when they went to protest
the detention of their elder brother Alexeis, who had been arrested
outside the family home during a government-supported demonstration.
List of Prisoners Recently Released by Cuba
1. Emilio Planas Robert
2. Alexeis Vargas Martín
3. Django Vargas Martín
4. Vianco Vargas Martín
5. Iván Fernández Depestre
6. Sonia Garro Alfonso
7. Ramón Alejandro Muñoz
8. Eugenio Hernández Hernández
9. Juliet Michelena Díaz
10. Ángel Yunier Remón Arzuaga
11. Vladimir Morera Bacallao
12. Jorge Ramírez Calderón
13. Marcelino Abreu Bonora
14. Wilberto Parada Milán
15. Alcibiades Guerra Marín
16. Jose Leiva Díaz
17. Eider Frometa Allen
18. Alexander Roberto Fernández Rico
19. Aracelio Riviaux Noa
20. David Piloto Barceló
21. Enrique Figuerola Miranda
22. José Manuel Rodríguez Navarro
23. Lázaro Romero Hurtado
24. Luis Enrique Labrador Díaz
25. Madeline Lázara Caraballo Betancourt
26. Miguel Alberto Ulloa Ginard
27. Reiner Mulet Levis
28. Roberto Hernández Barrio
29. Alexander Otero Rodríguez
30. Ángel Figueredo Castellón
31. Anoy Almeida Pérez
32. Carlos Manuel Figueroa Álvarez
33. César Andrés Sánchez Pérez
34. Daniel Enrique Qezada Chaveco
35. David Bustamante Rodríguez
36. Elisa Castillo González
37. Ernesto Roberto Rivery Gascón
38. Ernesto Tamayo Guerra
39. Haydee Gallardo Salazar
40. Jorge Cervantes García
41. José Lino Ascencio López
42. Juan Carlos Vásquez Osoria
43. Julio César Vega Santiesteban
44. Leonardo Paumier Ramírez
45. Miguel Tamayo Frías
46. Miguel Guerra Hastie
47. Niorvis Rivera Guerra
48. Rolando Reyes Rabanal
49. Ruberlandis Mainet Villalón
50. Sandalio Mejías Zulueta
51. Vladimir Ortiz Suárez
52. Yojarnes Arce Sarmiento
53. Yordenis Mendoza Cobas
Correction: January 12, 2015
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article
misstated when an American delegation will go to Cuba for talks. The
talks are scheduled for Jan. 21 and 22.
Michael R. Gordon contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.
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