Cuba Dissident Economists Freed On Humanitarian Grounds, Remain In Cuba
Bowing to public criticism the Castro Administration was not keeping its word and under pressure from the Catholic Church, Cuba finally released one more of the remaining political prisoners still being held after a 2003 crack down against free speech and economic reform. A deal to release 52 persons stalled when the final 13 refused to go into exile as a condition of release.
After suffering horrific conditions within the Cuban prison where he was held, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique wasted no time in returning to the activism that resulted in his arrest nearly 8 years before. The day after his release, the 68 year old economist made a public statement Sunday at Havana’s Santa Rita Church to the "Ladies in White", essentially the family members of the prisoners, in which he said his release was “without conditions”. Cuba is spinning the release to be “on humanitarian terms”.
Lauzurique, political prisoner number 13, was released a few days ago. He said not much has changed since he was imprisoned after speaking about the need for economic reforms in 2003. He says Cuba will continue a “situation of stagnation” unless there is “serious, honest liberalization”. He said political freedom had to be part of that liberalization, according the Latin American Herald Times.
Luis Enrique Ferrer is scheduled to be the next of the 13 to be released. He has been "convinced" to leave Cuba and go to Spain after making a deal to give his house to his relatives, according to the Cuban Commission of Human Rights. If Ferrer is released there will be 11 Cubans remaining from the “Group of 75” originally arrested in 2003. It is this "convincing" that may be the reason for Cuba's slow release of the prisoners.
Raul Castro rolled out a plan for economic reform which calls for massive government lay offs and the growth of the private sector. However, so long as Cuban leaders embrace anti-democratic leaders, such as Argentina’s Hugo Chavez who opposes Western nations, private investment will be slow in coming. Leaders of the free world will be cautious in accepting Cuba as an emerging economic force. Further, Cuba's close association with these leaders is an impediment to normalization of relations with the U.S. and the lifting of the blockade which plagues Cuba.
According to an article in the BBC, the release of Ramos Lauzurique may be a signal Raul is ready to release all of the remaining dissidents.