International PEN welcomes the release of journalists Alejandro González Raga and José Gabriel Ramón Castillo, and librarian Omar Pernet Hernández, who were freed from imprisonment in Cuba and immediately sent to Spain on February 16, 2008. Twenty-one other writers, journalists, and librarians remain detained in violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.  PEN continues to call for their immediate and unconditional release.

Background Information

On February 16, 2008, the three journalists were released from prison, taken to Havana, and flown out of Cuba on a Spanish military jet. They were accompanied by their families, and arrived in Madrid the following day. The exact reasons for their release are unknown. There is no indication that the February 19 announcement of Fidel Castro's retirement from office is linked to these releases.

The men were arrested and sentenced as part of a crackdown on alleged dissidents that began on March 18, 2003, together with other 21 writers, journalists, and librarians who were part of the called "Group of 75."

Alejandro González Raga, was a freelance journalist at the time of his arrest. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison, and charged under Article 91 of the Penal Code, which deals with acting against “the independence of the territorial integrity of the state.” On February 15, 2006, González published an impassioned open letter appealing for international solidarity for political prisoners in Cuba. He is now 48 years old.

Omar Pernet Hernández was a librarian for the 20 de Mayo Library in Villa Clara, and leader of the unofficial Movimiento Nacional por los Derechos Humanos "Mario Manuel de la Peña." He was sentenced to 25 years in prison, also under Article 91 of the Penal Code. While in prison, it was reported that he was suffering from a kidney infection, an inflamed bladder, and high blood pressure, among other problems. He is now 62 years old.

José Gabriel Ramón Castillo, journalist for the Instituto Cultura y Democracia and CubaNet, was sentenced to 20 years in prison under Law 88, which deals with those found guilty of committing “acts that, in line with imperialist interests, are aimed at subverting the internal order of the Nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system." It was reported that he suffered from health problems such as diabetes, cirrhosis, hypertension, stomach ulcers, circulation, and other ailments. There are accounts that he spent 15 months in solitary confinement, which contributed to his poor health. He is now 50 years old.

Write A Letter

  • welcoming the release of journalists Alejandro González Raga and José Gabriel Ramón Castillo, and librarian Omar Pernet Hernández;
  • calling for the government to take steps toward the unconditional release of all other journalists, writers, and librarians detained in Cuba in violation of their internationally recognized right to freedom of expression.

Send Your Letter To

Head of State and Government
Raúl Castro Ruz
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +53 7 8333085 (c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs); (212) 779-1697 (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)
E-mail: [email protected]; [email protected] (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Su Excelencia/Your Excellency
Dr. Juan Escalona Reguera
Fiscal General de la República
Fiscalía General de la República
San Rafael 3
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: + 53 7 669 485 / +53 7 333 164
Salutation: Señor Fiscal General/Dear Attorney General

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Sr. Felipe Pérez Roque
Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores
Calzada No. 360, Vedado
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +53 7 8333 085
E-mail: [email protected]
Salutation: Señor Ministro/Dear Minister

Please send also appeals to diplomatic representatives of Cuba in your country.