Sixth so-called dissident is granted parole

Campaign News | Friday, 3 December 2004

Jailed pro-US activists released for reasons of health

HAVANA 02 December - The Cuban authorities freed a self-styled 'independent journalist' from prison on Thursday, making him the sixth so-called dissident released in a week on health grounds.

Edel Jose Garcia Diaz, 60, was freed after a checkup at a Havana prison hospital, said his sister, Esperanza Garcia. She said he suffered from emotional problems and a cyst on his kidney.

Two so-called dissidents including the western press's favourite Cuban prisoner, the self-styled poet and alleged 'independent' journalist Raul Rivero, were released two days earlier on parole also for health reasons.

That move followed the release of three other supposed 'political' prisoners, all of whom were among 75 so-called dissidents jailed in March and April 2003 for between seven and 28 years after being found guilty of accepting money and gifts from the US government in order to oppose and undermine the Cuban socialist government.

Since their jailing there has been an increase of hostility from the United States towards Cuba with which, it now appears, these so-called dissidents are no longer in agreement.

On his release, Rivero, 59, urged Western diplomatic engagement with Cuba rather than isolation and pressure.

"I would advise dialogue. I have always believed in dialogue. It seems to me, as a citizen, that dialogues are better than pressure," Rivero, who had been serving a 20-year jail term, told journalists in his Havana flat.

The statement was an obvious reference to the recent attmepts by Spain to broker a change in the EU's so-called 'common position' on Cuba that has resulted in the re-establishment of talks between Spain and the Cuban government.

Rivero was released along with Osvaldo Alfonso Valdes, 40, who headed what he called the Liberal Democratic Party, a tiny grouplet, when he was arrested.

On Monday the Cuban courts released Oscar Espinosa Chepe, 64, who claims to be an economics writer; Marcelo Lopez, 39, a member of the so-called 'Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation; and Margarito Broche, 44, head of a group formed by would-be emigrants who had been repatriated to Cuba by the US and who had then been encouraged by James Cason of the US interests section in Havana to organise a political party in the island.

The alleged dissidents were freed following a meeting last Thursday between Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque and Spain's ambassador to Cuba, Carlos Alonso Zaldivar and western media are reporting that there is a link between the two events.

The meeting marked the first official contact between Cuba and the European Union since June 2003, after the EU bowed to US pressure and imposed sanctions protesting against the arrests of the US-backed activists and the executions of three Cubans convicted of terrosism when they threatend the lives of 19 innocent people when they hi-jacked an Havana bay ferry in an attempt to take it to the United States.

"We believe that it (the release) is linked to the attitude of the Spanish government which advocates firmness on the principles but urges the European Union to adopt more effective tactics in its relations with Havana," a Spanish government spokesman said.

Rivero thanked Spain for its intervention, although the United States said the prisoners' release came after international pressure and not Spain's diplomacy.

"I can't describe this Cuban decision as being the result of any specific nation or upcoming meeting or anything like that," said US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

Rivero, who appeared fit though he suffers from several illnesses, said he hoped he would be able to write and work as a journalist.

He told reporters he was "without rage, with a position that is constructive rather than belligerent; I don't have hatreds, or at least not great ones."

Rivero was transferred to a prison hospital in Havana from his prison in Canaletas, 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of the capital prior to his release.

Rivero is often referred to as a poet but he has never been regarded as such in Cuba. He is a journalist who wrote for and was paid by anti-Cuba propaganda websites that are funded by the US government and based in Florida.

In 1995, he founded a so-called independent news agency which he called Cuba Press that harshly criticized Cuba's government and was set up using computers and money donated from the US Interests section in Havana.

He was jailed on the evidence of a Cuban double agent that had infiltrated his group and spilled the beans to the Cuban authorities of the source of Rivero's funding.

Under a law passed in the late 1990s, it is illegal for a Cuban to accept money from the US in order to work against the Cuban political order.

Rivero and the other prisoners have not been pardoned for this crime, but they have been released on conditional parole beause of health reasons.

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