Cuban President Raúl Castro. Photo by
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Cuba Releases Last 2 Dissidents From Group Of 75

March 24, 2011 By Staff

Cuban President Raúl Castro. Photo by

Today in Latin America

Top Story — The Cuban government freed the last two remaining prisoners on Wednesday from a group of 75 dissidents who were jailed in the spring of 2003.

Both men had been sentenced to 25 years in prison on charges of undermining the Revolution.

The release of José Ferrer and Félix Navarro came as part of a deal mediated by Cuba’s Catholic Church this summer to free those remaining from the 2003 crackdown. The Cuban government released most of them — including a number of prisoners unrelated to the Group of 75, who were convicted of crimes involving violence — into Spanish exile.

Ferrer and Navarro intend to stay in Cuba and both men hinted they would continue to advocate for a transition to democracy on the island through peaceful means. “The fight now  will be with greater vehemence, but also greater maturity,” Navarro told Reuters. “I want to see a free people, and the best place to fight is here inside,” said Ferrer.

The Cuban government calls the dissidents common criminals and accuses them them of destabilizing the government on behalf of Washington. Human rights watchdog Amnesty International classified the Group of 75 as prisoners of conscience.

“It is a step in the right direction for human rights in Cuba to see the release of all prisoners of conscience from the March 2003 crackdown,” said Gerardo Ducos of Amnesty International in a press statement. “Particularly considering they should have never been imprisoned in the first place.”

The releases began last year as Washington sought reciprocal concessions from the Raúl Castro government for President Barack Obama’s decision to permit unrestricted family travel to the island and loosen controls on remittances. But the jailing and sentencing to 15 years of U.S. Aid contractor Alan Gross on charges of undermining Cuban sovereignty make a further opening of U.S.-Cuban relations unlikely in the near future, notwithstanding the completion of the releases of the Group of 75.

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