Spain receive 37 more Cuban ex-political prisoners

AP News
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Posted: Apr 08, 2011 8:48 AM
Spain receive 37 more Cuban ex-political prisoners

A total of 37 Cuban ex-political prisoners and more than 200 relatives arrived Friday in Madrid in the largest and last such exodus since Spain started accepting dissidents last summer, the Foreign Ministry said.

Altogether, 245 people arrived on an overnight flight from Havana on a plane chartered by the Spanish government.

Cuba has freed 75 dissidents rounded up in 2003, under an agreement reached between Cuban President Raul Castro and Havana Cardinal Jaime Ortega. Spain facilitated that accord.

So far Spain had accepted 40 of those dissidents since last July. Friday's group is separate from the 75, except for one man, Orlando Fundora, 55. He was jailed in 2003 and released a year later on health grounds. Fundora came to Spain on Friday with his wife.

Cuba considers all 75 dissidents common criminals financed by the United States to conspire to destabilize its government.

"I have left my homeland behind, but I am never going to abandon it," Fundora said outside the cheap hotel where he will be housed temporarily while getting settled in Spain.

He said he has problems with his heart, kidneys and a leg, and thanked Spain and the Catholic church "for opening the doors to so many prisoners who were going to die."

He said he wanted to continue advocating freedom of expression and human rights in Cuba.

"I want to keep fighting. I want to keep speaking out wherever I can," Fundora told reporters.

A ministry statement said that altogether, Spain has taken in 115 former prisoners and nearly 650 relatives from Cuba and Friday's arrival ends the process.

The Cubans who have come to Spain and are not part of the 41 that include Fundora were convicted of crimes other than conspiracy, although Spain insists on calling them political prisoners.

The ministry did not identify the new arrivals, and immediately began to send most of them out to several Spanish provinces rather than house them in Madrid. It said this was because residences and hostels that charities normally use to take in such people are full.