Miami (July 13, 2010).—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) said that despite the arrival in Madrid of the first Cuban political prisoners to be released from jail, including six independent journalists, the organization will continue protesting the “foremost problem in Cuba — freedom.”
The IAPA, through its president, Alejandro Aguirre, welcomed the “major political event that this release signifies” -- negotiated by the Cuban regime, the Catholic church and the Spanish government -- but warned that “we must be clear: this in no way implies real change; the regime continues to restrict freedom in all its forms, whether of expression, the press, association or assembly.”
Aguirre, editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Américas, added, “We are witnessing the same illusion of freedom we saw over the last few decades in which the Cuban government has been negotiating bit by bit the emancipation of a people that continues held hostage to intolerance” — a reference to the agreement for gradual release from prison of 52 dissidents over a four-month period. “The path of exile cannot be interpreted as true freedom,” he declared.
Among the seven members of the Cuban opposition who arrived in the Spanish capital with their families, in addition to Antonio Villareal, were the independent journalists convicted in rapid proceedings in March 2003, a time known as the “black spring”. They are: Ricardo González Alfonso (sentenced to 20 years, member of the Manuel Márquez Sterling Journalists Society, and writer for the Revista De Cuba magazine); Julio César Gálvez (15 years, freelance for several publications); Pablo Pacheco Ávila (20 years, Avila Independent Journalists Cooperative); José Luis García Paneque (24 years, Libertad news agency); Omar Ruiz Hernández (18 years, Nueva Prensa Cubana agency) and Léster Luis González Pentón (20 years, freelance).
Of the 10 journalists to be freed, still awaiting their release are Normando Hernández Gonzalez, Mijaíl Barzaga Lugo, Alfredo Pulido López and José Ubaldo Izquierdo.
Robert Rivard, chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, stated, “While these releases please us we are also awaiting the quick release of the remaining imprisoned newsmen.” He called on the Cuban government to accompany this policy with an “end to the harassment, threats and constant interrogations to which some 300 independent journalists and bloggers on the island are subjected.”
Other journalists still serving prison time are: Víctor Rolando Arroyo, Adolfo Fernández Sainz, Omar Rodríguez Saludes, Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez, Pedro Argüelles Morán, Fabio Prieto Llorente, Iván Hernández Carrillo, Juan Carlos Herrera, Miguel Galván Gutiérrez and Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, all of them sentenced in 2003 to 15 to 27 years, and Raymundo Perdigón Brito, Alberto Gil Triay, Ramón Velázquez Toranso and Alberto Santiago Du Bouchet, convicted between 2005 and 2009.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. The IAPA Impunity Project is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and has the mission of combating violence against journalists and lessening the impunity surrounding the majority of such crimes. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org; http://www.impunidad.com