July 13, 2010

Raúl Castro Ruz
c/o Cuban Interests Section
2639 16th St, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Fax: (202) 797-8521

General Abelardo Coloma Ibarra

Ministro del Interior y Prisiones
c/o Cuban Interests Section
2639 16th St, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Fax: (202) 797-8521

Your Execellencies,

On behalf of the 3,400 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to welcome the July 12 release of journalists Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez, José Luis García Paneque, Ricardo Severino González Alfonso, Léster Luis González Pentón, Pablo Pacheco Ávila, and Omar Moisés Ruíz Hernández. However, we remain deeply concerned that the journalists have apparently been obliged to leave Cuba as a precondition of their release.

According to our information, PEN American Center Honorary Members José Luis García Paneque, journalist, and Léster Luis González Pentón, independent journalist and human rights activist, as well as Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez, a freelance journalist, Ricardo Severino González Alfonso, journalist, librarian, and poet, Pablo Pacheco Ávila, freelance journalist, and Omar Moisés  Ruíz Hernández, freelance journalist, were taken to Havana’s airport on July 12, where they were reunited with their families before boarding overnight flights to Spain. They arrived in Madrid on the afternoon of July 13 along with one other dissident, and are reportedly due to be greeted by representatives of the Spanish foreign ministry. Their release follows talks between the Cuban government, the Catholic Church and the Spanish foreign minister, during which Cuba reportedly pledged to release 52 dissidents jailed in the March 2003 crackdown over the coming months.

We understand that one of the conditions of the prisoners’ release is apparently that they agree to be exiled to Spain, although they will be free to move elsewhere thereafter. Both the U.S. and Chile have reportedly offered to take in the dissidents. According to statements issued by the Catholic Church, 20 of the 52 detainees have agreed to go to Spain so far. These reportedly include the seven already released as well as four other imprisoned writers who are due to be sent to Spain in the coming days: Mijaíl Bárzaga Lugo, Normando Hernández González, José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández and Alfredo Manuel Pulido López. The other detainees will be released over the next three to four months. It is not yet clear what will happen to dissidents who do not wish to leave Cuba.

The six journalists had sentences ranging from 15 years to 24 years in prison. The remaining four—PEN American Center Honorary Member Normando Hernández González, journalist, director of the news agency Colegio de Periodistas Independientes de Camagüey and recipient of the 2007 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award; Mijaíl Bárzaga Lugo, journalist; José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández, freelance journalist and activist; and Alfredo Manuel Pulido López, freelance journalist and activist—all had sentences ranging from 14 to 25 years in prison.

PEN American Center welcomes the release of José Luis García Paneque, Léster Luis González Pentón, Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez, Ricardo Severino González Alfonso, Pablo Pacheco Ávila, and Omar Moisés Ruíz Hernández, as well as the government’s reported intention to release the 16 other writers who have been imprisoned since March 2003, but remain concern about their apparent exile from their country. We therefore urge you to immediately and unconditionally release the remaining 19 writers, journalists and librarians still held in violation of their right to freedom of expression, and ratify without reservations the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and introduce the necessary legislative and judicial reforms to guarantee freedom of expression throughout the country. 

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula                      
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee            

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Ambassador Pedro Núñez Mosquera
New York Permanent Mission to Cuba
315 Lexington Ave.
New York, NY 10016
Ph. (212) 689-7215
Fax. (212) 779-1697

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