Reporters Without Borders today reacted with delight to the release yesterday of its correspondent Ricardo González Alfonso, along with that of several other Cuban journalists and political opposition figures.
The worldwide press freedom organisation’s correspondent, aged 60, who is originally from Havana, was arrested during the “black spring” of March 2003, along with 27 of his colleagues. The married man, who is father of two children, was sentenced on 7 April to 20 years in prison for “acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the state”. At the time he was president of the Manuel Márquez Sterling society, a banned journalists’ organisation and was head of the magazine, De Cuba, the first such independent publication on the island since the founding of the Castro regime.
González Alfonso arrived this morning in Spain accompanied by his family. Seven Cuban political prisoners, including five journalists also arrived in Madrid: José Luis García Paneque (of the news agency Libertad), Pablo Pacheco Ávila (CAPI news agency), Omar Moisés Ruiz Hernández (Grupo de Trabajo Decoro agency) and Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez (a freelance journalist). The Spanish section of Reporters Without Borders welcomed him on arrival at Barajas airport.
They were the first group of Cuban political prisoners to be released following last week’s announcement by the spokesman for Cuba’s Catholic Church of a wave of releases granted by the Castro regime, due also to the intervention of the Spanish government in the person of its foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos.
These releases, including the long-awaited freedom of our correspondent Ricardo González Alfonso, marks the beginning of the opening announced by the regime. It should not however be allowed to mask the reality of the tragic state of human rights in Cuba.
Reporters Without Borders welcomes these releases but points out that “exile” to Spain cannot constitute a humane and satisfactory solution. These releases should unquestionably include a recognition of the right of political opponents to live in their own country and defend their opinions openly without fear of reprisals.
The organisation called on Latin American countries to intervene more actively with the Cuban government on the issue of human rights in Cuba and to stop closing their eyes to constant violations.
Reporters Without Borders also calls on the United States to at least ease its embargo on Cuba that has been in force since 1962. It considers that the unfair measure against the Cuban people allows the regime to justify some human rights violations including accusing political opponents of being “mercenaries in the pay of the United States”.
This wave of releases negotiated by the Cuban church and the Spanish government is the largest since Raul Castro succeeded his brother Fidel Castro four years ago. The organisation believes that with this move towards openness the regime has genuinely taken a step forward in this longed for and vital process. Nothing can justify that a people should be denied their most basic rights. This situation can no longer be tolerated and these releases should be accompanied by real change, it added.