A day after the Obama administration announced it was open to allowing some Cuban dissidents into the US, the Roman Catholic Church of Cuba has released the names of six more political prisoners to be freed into exile by the Cuban government.
On Monday State Department spokesman Philip Crowley confirmed to reporters that some cases were being considered, but also reiterated that so far no requests have been made. Five of the released prisoners will be heading to Spain. The sixth will be exiled in Chile.
The announcement comes on the heels of an article written by Tim Padgett in the August 23rd 2010 edition of Time Magazine questioning US President Barack Obamas commitment to restoring US travel relations with Cuba. On April 13th, 2009, President Obama spoke eloquently about “A new era in relations between the governments of the United States and Cuba.” but, many have doubts. There are a reported 1.2 million Cuban Americans living in southern Miami and the surrounding vicinity. Most are very poor and nearly all have impoverished relatives back in Cuba. Proponents see restoration of travel relations with the country as crucial for the islands gradual march toward democracy. Over 2.1 million residents live in the Cuban capital of Havana.
Following the 1959 revolution which ousted the government of US backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in favor of Fidel Castro, the country went through a period of cautious nationalism. Castro quickly established a reputation for little patience for dissention within the ranks. Nor was the bearded revolutionary known to tolerate what he perceived to be the liberal media. “Nobody should imagine that somebody on his own can write an article judging the state, the party, the laws, but especially the party. We want broad information, but nobody can assume the prerogative of judging the party.” Castro once famously stated. (attribute - ‘The Cuban Revolution - Origins, Course and Legacy - Marifeli Perez-Stable) The US issued a trade embargo against Castro and his government in 1962.
Then in the late eighties came the unexpected collapse of the Soviet Union. Cuba, formerly reliant on Soviet aid, found it increasingly difficult to mitigate the economic effects of the US embargo, leaving the small island country paralyzed in perpetual poverty.
In 1994 the United States agreed to grant up to 20,000 visas annually to Cubans, after 35,000 Cuban refugees poured into Florida in 1994 alone. US President Barack Obama frequently mentioned Cuba during campaign speeches, and many Cuban Americans have high hope for change.
Over the years, hundreds of Cuban dissidents have been imprisoned by the Castro regime. The six men being released, Victor Arroyo Carmona, Alexis Rodriguez Fernandez, Leonel Grave de Peralta Almenares, Alfredo Dominguez Batista, Prospero Gainza Aguero and Claro Sanchez Altarriba are part of a group of seventy-five political prisoners originally arrested in 2003 on charges ranging from treason to espionage. Only twenty of the seventy-five prisoners still remain behind bars. The others have all been released by current Cuban President Raul Castro, who has served since his brother Fidel stepped down following a near fatal illness in July, 2006.