A partition in the clouds of Cuban repression?

The BBC and the Telegraph today report that the first seven of the 52 Cuban political prisoners recently released are on their way to a life in exile in Spain.  The Guardian reports that one journalist – Omar Ruiz – doesn’t consider himself to be free until he arrives in Spain. After facing the prospect of 12 years in prison for daring to freely express his opinions, no one can blame him for thinking that.  

Here at the Human Rights Action Centre we’re elated at the news that one of the prisoners set to be released is Pablo Pacheco – a journalist I blogged on a couple of weeks ago who was facing a 20 year jail sentence for freely expressing his opinions.  Amnesty considered Pablo to be a prisoner of conscience (POC) along with the other 51 set to be released and so his immediate release is certainly good news.
But – and regular Amnesty blog readers would know that it wouldn’t be long before a ‘but’ cropped up –  it’s not complete jubilation here, because these releases come with conditions  attached – notably the hardest one of having no choice but to leave their homeland.   Amnesty calls for immediate and unconditional release of prisoners of conscience.  This is not unconditional.  Plus there remains one other POC in prison.
Lawyer Rolando Jiménez Posada is serving a 12-year jail term after being convicted of “disrespecting authority and revealing secrets about state security police” following his peaceful manifestation of support for political prisoners.  His name does not appear to be on the list of those set to be released, as he wasn’t part of the 2003 “Black Spring” crackdown.
Amnesty International is calling for them all for his immediate release.

In addition to this additional POC, there remain dozens of other political prisoners in the country and Amnesty is calling to be given prompt and fair trials.

These recent developments are certainly welcome, and a step in the right direction to ending a regime of repression of free opinion and ideas.  However as we mentioned in a report published a couple of weeks ago, there remains intense harassment and intimidation of journalists and those who dare to criticise the Cuban authorities.  

I’d like to hope that the release of the 52 POCs marks the break of the heavy clouds of repression in Cuba. But sadly I fear it may be just a slightly tainted silver lining around an ever present cloud.

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