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Vol. 74/No. 28      July 26, 2010

Cuban government releases
17 arrested in 2003
Seventeen Cubans jailed in 2003 for taking U.S. government money to organize counterrevolutionary activities on the island have been released. Eighteen other prisoners in Cuba have been transferred to jails closer to their families. Within four months the Cuban government will release all remaining prisoners convicted in 2003 of illegally collaborating with the U.S. government.

The moves were the result of an agreement between the Cuban government, the Spanish government, and the Catholic Church of Cuba. Cuban newspapers printed an announcement by the Havana archdiocese of the releases and transfers July 7.

The prisoners have been falsely described as “dissidents” in the capitalist media, but they were not imprisoned because of their political views. They were part of a group of 75 Cubans arrested in 2003 and convicted of working directly with U.S. diplomatic personnel in Havana against the Cuban Revolution, including taking U.S. funds. Some of the 75 were released earlier.

Aiding a hostile state power is a crime punishable by death in the United States. Any U.S. citizen who “adheres to” or gives “aid and comfort … within the United States or elsewhere” to a country Washington considers an enemy “is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years,” according to the U.S. penal code.

The year 2003 was a time of intense provocations against Cuba by Washington. James Cason became the head of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba that year and publicly offered millions of dollars to Cubans posing as “independent journalists,” “independent librarians,” “independent doctors,” and “independent trade unionists.”

Washington’s policy of limiting the number of U.S. visas for Cubans to come to the United States, while at the same time granting residency to any Cuban who reaches U.S. shores, including by criminal means, had led to an accelerating rate of dangerous airplane and boat hijackings.

Eleven of the prisoners just released flew with their families to Spain July 13. The Cuban government gave them the choice of staying in Cuba, according to Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who participated in the talks that led to the agreement. Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, who also took part in the talks, told the Miami Herald that the former prisoners could return to the island after receiving a permit; their relatives who went to Spain with them may return at any time.

On July 8 Guillermo Fariñas, another so-called dissident in Cuba, ended a hunger strike he had begun in February to demand release of “political prisoners.” Originally jailed for violent assaults on other Cubans, Fariñas was a correspondent for Radio Martí, the station sponsored by Washington that beams messages against the revolution to Cuba.

He refused food and water, but agreed to intravenous feeding. In an interview in the July 3 Granma, Dr. Armando Caballero, head of intensive care at the hospital in Santa Clara where Fariñas was treated, described the extraordinary effort being made to keep him alive. Ten specialists treated him. The nutrients fed him had to be purchased in Europe at great cost.

In any advanced capitalist country, the doctor pointed out, a patient would be charged at least $1,300 per day just for the hospital room, not counting medications, exams, and lab tests. Fariñas paid nothing.

The treatment of Fariñas is a far cry from that of five Cuban revolutionaries who have been imprisoned in the United States on frame-up charges for 11 years. Known as the Cuban Five, Gerardo Hernández, René González, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, and Fernando González were arrested for monitoring the activities of right-wing Cuban groups in Florida who have launched armed attacks on Cuba with Washington’s backing. All five were kept in solitary confinement for 17 months before their trial. Three were initially sentenced to life in prison. Hernández and René González have been denied the right to visits from their wives since they were convicted.
Related articles:
Letter from Cuban Five prisoner on World Cup
Mandela: ‘Cuban Revolution is source of inspiration’  
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