On Thursday, Cuba announced it would release 52 political dissidents who had been in jail since 2003, detainees from the so-called Black Spring. Meanwhile, a well-known dissident will reportedly announce the end of his four-month hunger strike. The release is the result of monthlong negotiations among the Cuban Catholic Church, the Spanish government, and Raúl Castro's politburo. Until yesterday, it appeared to be just another photo op for the Cubans.
But the announcement is a major concession for a government that had increased its crackdown of political opponents since activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo died in February. Five of the prisoners will be released immediately, and the rest will be let go over the next few months. Among them: Oscar Biscet Elias, who received a presidential medal of freedom from George W. Bush in absentia in 2007 and who punk rocker and New Times cover-story subject Gorki Aguila credits with his own political re-awakening.
The 52 prisoners to be released are part of what is commonly referred to in Cuba as the Black Spring, a 2003 crackdown that sent 75 activists and journalists to jail. Since then, they've been detained in maximum-security prisons like Kilometer 5 1/2, a dank gulag in western Cuba where Aguila first met Biscet. The rest of the 75 have met their sentences or have been let out because of health concerns.
After their release, they will travel to Spain, though that might not be their final destination. The Catholic Church says as part of the negotiation, the prisoners' property in Cuba will not be confiscated and they are free to return to the country. Guillermo Farinas, who has been on a hunger strike since April to protest the imprisonment of the 52 dissidents, will reportedly end the fast today, according to Spanish daily El Pais. The well-known dissident had been recently reported to be near death.
According to the Associated Press, these are the detainees who will be released:
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Pedro Argüelles Morán, Víctor Rolando Arroyo Carmona, Mijail Barzaga Lugo, Oscar Elías Biscet González, Marcelo Cano Rodríguez, Eduardo Diaz Fleitas, Antonio Ramón Diaz Sánchez, Alfredo Domínguez Batista, Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, Efrén Fernández Fernández, Juan Adolfo Fernández Sáinz, José Daniel Ferrer García, Luis Enrique Ferrer García, Próspero Gaínza Agüero, Miguel Galván Gutiérrez, Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez, José Luis García Paneque, Ricardo Severino Gonzales Alfonso, Diosdado González Marrero, Lester González Pentón, Jorge Luis González Tanquero, Leonel Grave de Peralta Almenares, Iván Hernández Carrillo, Normando Hernández González, Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, Regis Iglesias Ramírez, José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández, Librado Ricardo Linares García, Héctor Fernando Maseda Gutiérrez, José Miguel Martínez Hernández, Luis Milán Fernández, Nelson Molinet Espino, Ángel Juan Moya Acosta, Jesús Mustafá Felipe, Félix Navarro Rodríguez, Pablo Pacheco Ávila, Arturo Pérez de Alejo Rodriguez, Horacio Julio Pina Borrego, Fabio Prieto Llorente, Alfredo Manuel Pulido López, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzerique, Blas Giraldo Reyes Rodríguez, Alexis Rodríguez Fernández, Omar Rodríguez Saludes, Omar Moisés Ruiz Hernández, Claro Sánchez Altarriba, Guido Sigler Amaya, Ricardo Silva Gual, Fidel Suárez Cruz, Manuel Ubals González, Héctor Raúl Valle Hernández, Antonio Augusto Villarreal Acosta.