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Cuba: Ready for Release?

As news circulates of Cuba's intention to release 52 political prisoners, Guillermo Fariñas, who has gone on a hunger strike to protest the detainment of 25 prisoners of conscience that he says “the homeland needs as leaders”, is reportedly close to death. Bloggers are following developments…

Uncommon Sense posts Fariñas’ statement in response to an article that appeared in Granma over the weekend, and says:

Fariñas’ protest may end with his death, but it does not mean his has been a futile gesture.

More in the world know his name, and more importantly, more in the world are aware of his cause.

His sacrifice, more than diplomatic dealings between the Vatican and the dictator or between the dictator and Spain, is largely responsible for any progress that has been made in recent months towards the possible release of a large number of political prisoners.

With his sacrifice, and that of other brave Cubans on the island, Fariñas has forced the dictatorship to recognize that the status quo, the continued imprisonment of a large number of political prisoners is no longer tenable.

For its sake, the dictatorship would be best to respond to Fariñas’ demands before it is too late to save his life because as he said, his blood will be on their hands.

The blogger goes on to comment on news of the impending release of political prisoners, leaving no doubt as to where he thinks the credit is due:

If ‘tens’ of prisoners are released in coming weeks, all the credit will be due to those Cubans who against tremendous odds, have stood courageously and demanded that their rights, and the rights of all Cubans, be honored and respected.

Cubans, and our friends, off the island who have used our abilities and opportunities to forcefully and repeatedly tell the stories of Cuba's political prisoners.

And most of all, the hundreds, if not thousands of Cubans, imprisoned in the Castro gulag because of their continued faith in freedom, their fellow Cubans and in God. Behind bars, they have stayed true to their cause and demonstrated to their captors, and to the world, that their spirit has not been broken.

This victory, if it comes with their unconditional release, will be theirs alone.

Meanwhile, The Cuban Triangle thinks that the announcement about pending prisoner releases is “a very positive development”:

The result, if all comes to fruition, will be the release of the remainder of the 75 arrested and jailed, unjustly in my opinion, in the spring of 2003. They are a diverse group that included nearly all the principal activists behind the Varela Project, the pro-reform petition drive led by Oswaldo Paya and the Christian Liberation Movement.

If those releases occur, there would be by my quick count only about a dozen left on Amnesty International’s list of prisoners of conscience in Cuba.

He also addresses the issue of whether their release is tied to the condition of having to leave the country:

I’m told by someone close to the process that the releases are not contingent on the prisoners leaving the country – that “may leave the country” means what it says, and doesn’t mean “must.” In many cases over the years, that condition has indeed been imposed, trading imprisonment for forced departure – but apparently not in this case. And several of the 75 that were released in recent years – e.g. Hector Palacios, Oscar Espinosa Chepe – have remained in Cuba.

Ninety miles away…. in another country, however, begs to differ:

Judging by the media coverage of the proposed release of 50 political prisoners in Cuba, it would seem that the entire island has been liberated. Even Foxnews is running a banner indicating that with the promised release- more aptly described as the forced expulsion- of the 50, there remain only 100 political prisoners in Cuba. So while Spain, the Church, and the MSM celebrate the benificence of the regime, they forget about all of those incarcerated on other grounds but for political reasons, on charges like those of buying black market paint, etc… Darsi Ferrer, anyone?

Generation Y, blogging from Havana, adds:

Whispers come and go. In them, the word ‘liberation’ has been stuck to a term with nefarious connotations: ‘deportation.’ ‘They will go directly from the prisons to the planes,’ a gentleman who keeps his ear glued to the radio told me, based on what he hears on the prohibited broadcasts from the North. Forced expatriation, expulsion, exile, has been standard practice to get rid of dissenters.

She explains:

Not even a jumbo jet could transport all those potentially at risk of going to prison for their ideas or their civil actions. A veritable airline with weekly flights would be necessary to remove all those who don’t agree with the administration of Raul Castro. But, as it turns out, many of us do not want to go. Because the decision to live here or there is something as personal as choosing a partner, or naming a child; it is not permissible that so many Cubans find themselves caught between the walls of prison and the sword of exile. It is immoral to force emigration on those who might be released in the coming days.

El Yuma agrees:

One of the long-standing strategies of the Cuban government has been to neutralize dissent by exporting it.

Regarding this Hernandez Busto rightly observes: ‘So the possible benefit of these prisoners being released only leads to a new violation of their fundamental human rights,’ that of not being forcibly deported from one's own country.

Even with this bone of contention, however, The Cuban Triangle suggests that “there’s a new feature on Cuba’s political landscape – a dialogue between the Cuban government and Cuba’s civil society in the form of the country’s largest independent institution, the Catholic Church”:

More important, the Cuban government has acknowledged in the official media that this dialogue is taking place and includes the topic of prisoners. To me, that should count as progress.

It should also count as progress that the process is beginning to produce results. No one can argue that it is solving the totality of Cuba’s human rights problems, or that the Church should be immune from criticism as the process plays out. Nor can one deny that it was preceded by, and perhaps caused in part by Cuban citizens’ protests and hunger strikes.

But it is beginning to produce results where sanctions, distance, rhetoric, and regime-change schemes of all kinds have not.

Time will tell, but in the interim, Ninety miles away…. in another country prefers to take the news with a pinch of salt:

I wholeheartedly rejoice that the beaten and tortured will no longer be beaten and tortured, just forced into permanent exile from their mother country for the crime of having an opinion. But I will not bang cymbals and jump up and down in ecstasy until the criminal is gone and victim is at last freed.

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