Earlier this month the Castro regime, after mediation by the Catholic Church, announced that it would release 52 political prisoners and “allow them” to leave the island. This is a remarkable u-turn by the regime, since Cuba so far denied having any political prisoners at all.
The release and exile of political prisoners didn’t happen because the Castro regime decided to soften its stance. In particular since the untimely death in February of hunger striking political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, Cuba has come under intense and unprecedented international scrutiny. A recent hunger strike by Guillermo Farinas – for the more humane treatment and immediate release of the most ill political prisoners – increased the pressure on the regime after he was hospitalized in critical condition.
It is of course positive that a number of political prisoners, jailed under extreme and inhumane conditions, are no longer incarcerated. However, it seems that they were in reality only given the choice between remaining in prison or leaving Cuba. Officially the regime says that the exiled prisoners are free to return, but since the jail sentences are not lifted this not a real choice.
In mid July IDU’s Secretary General participated in a forum in Barcelona, sharing the podium with the Secretary General of the Liberal International and previously exiled former political prisoners of this island. The conclusions from the discussions in Barcelona were quite clear: Cuba remains as oppressive as before. It is therefore important to maintain the pressure on the regime.
IDU member parties are asked to act to the best of their ability to support democratic reforms in Cuba. The European common position, democratic reforms as a pre-requisite for increased cooperation, must be maintained. Human rights violations must be condemned and all political prisoners released. Laws that violate international rights standards must be repealed. Legalization of political parties and free elections must remain the ultimate goals.
Source: International Democrat Union; IDU UPDATE – 24 July 2010