July 27, 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 release of Cuban journalists Normando Hernández González, Omar Rodríguez Saludes, Mijail Bárzaga Lugo, and Alfredo Pulido López. However, we remain concerned that the prisoners are apparently obliged to leave Cuba as a precondition of their release.

According to our information, all of the journalists traveled to Spain with their families as a part of a deal brokered by the Catholic Church and the Spanish government. PEN American Center Honorary Member Normando Hernández González, an independent journalist and recipient of the 2007 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award who had been serving a 25-year sentence, and Omar Rodríguez Saludes, director of the independent press agency Nueva Prensa Cubana, who had been serving a 27-year sentence, arrived in Madrid with their families on July 14, 2010. They were taken to a hostel in the neighborhood of Vallecas, where they joined six colleagues who had been freed and exiled to Spain the day before (Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez, José Luis García Paneque, Ricardo Severino González Alfonso, Léster Luis González Pentón, Pablo Pacheco Ávila and Omar Moisés Ruíz Hernández).

Journalist Mijail Bárzaga Lugo arrived in Madrid with his family the next day, July 15, and was taken to the same hotel, while Alfredo Pulido López, a human rights activist and freelance journalist, landed in Madrid with his family on July 22 and was driven to a hotel in Mostoles, south of Madrid. The release of these six journalists makes a total of 12 freed journalists since July 12, 2010. We understand that two other journalists, José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández and Blas Giraldo Reyes Rodríguez, arrived in Madrid on July 23.
Under the deal brokered by the Catholic Church and the Spanish foreign ministry, the Cuban government has reportedly agreed to release all 52 dissidents imprisoned since the March 2003 “Black Spring” crackdown on freedom of expression. One of the conditions of the prisoners’ release is apparently that they agree to be exiled to Spain, although they will reportedly be free to move elsewhere thereafter. Both the USA and Chile have reportedly offered to take in the dissidents. The remaining detainees are due to be released over the next three to four months. However, some are reportedly refusing to leave Cuba, including the journalists Pedro Argüelles Morán, Iván Hernández Carrillo and Régis Iglesias Ramírez. It is not yet clear what will happen in these cases.

PEN American Center welcomes the release of Omar Rodríguez Saludes, Normando Hernández González, Mijail Bárzaga Lugo, and Alfredo Pulido López, as well as the Cuban government’s reported intention to release all other writers who have been imprisoned since March 2003. However, we remain concerned that the journalists have apparently been obliged to leave Cuba as a precondition of their release, effectively exiling them to a second or third country, and that the right to freedom of expression is still seriously undermined in Cuba. We urge the Cuban authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the remaining writers, journalists and librarians still held in violation of their right to freedom of expression, allow all Cuban writers to return to Cuba if they so wish without fear of imprisonment, and to 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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