Cuba to send 3 more prisoners to exile in Spain

AP News
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Posted: Nov 01, 2010 2:35 PM
Cuba to send 3 more prisoners to exile in Spain

Roman Catholic officials on Monday announced the names of three more Cuban prisoners who have accepted exile in Spain in return for freedom.

One of the men, Adrian Alvarez Arenciba, has been in jail since 1985 for espionage and other violations of state security. Another, Ramon Fidel Basulto Garcia, was convicted of hijacking in 1994. Both were serving 30-year sentences. The third man, Joel Torres Gonzalez, does not appear on the most widely used list of Cuban dissidents or political prisoners.

The church issued a statement saying all three will shortly be sent to Spain, along with their families.

Under an agreement hammered out with the church in July, President Raul Castro faces a Sunday deadline to free the last 13 of 52 remaining prisoners of conscience arrested in 2003. Thirty-nine have left for Spain so far _ along with 11 people jailed separately, often for violent offenses.

None of the three named Monday are part of the group of opposition leaders, activists and intellectuals rounded up in that 2003 crackdown, however.

When the deal was struck, there was no mention of exile being a condition for release, though all the prisoners who have been freed so far have accepted the arrangement.

The remaining 13 seem determined to stay in Cuba, and several have said they will continue fighting for democratic political change once released. That is a direct challenge for a government that describes the opposition as mercenaries paid by Washington to destabilize the island's socialist system.

Cuba won praise in Europe when it agreed to release the prisoners, but pressure is mounting to finish the job.

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Guillermo Farinas, a dissident who won Europe's Sakharov human rights prize in October after staging a 134-day hunger strike in support of the prisoners, told The Associated Press that he will stop eating again Nov. 8 if the remaining dissidents are not in their homes.

The Ladies in White, a group of wives and mothers of the 2003 political prisoners, have also vowed increased activity if the government backs away from its promise.

Church officials have said privately that they are waiting to see if the government will keep its word. Cuban officials have had no comment on the deadline.