MADRID, Spain, JULY 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A first group of seven former Cuban political prisoners arrived Tuesday in Spain, thanking the Church for its role in mediating their release.
Julio César Gálvez spoke on behalf of the dissidents and their relatives. “The release responds to the struggle and unbreakable faith of groups such as the Ladies in White and of persons such as Orlando Zapata, who died in February after a hunger strike,” he said.
Gálvez is a journalist who had been sentenced to 15 years in prison. “We have the hope that those who continue in Cuba will be able to enjoy the same liberties that we have at this moment,” he said. “Our arrival signifies the beginning of a new stage for the future of Cuba.”
Ricardo González Alonso echoed his sentiments, suggesting that “thanks to the participation of the Church in Cuba, headed by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, and the support of the Spanish government, the dialogue with the Castro regime will end with the release of all the prisoners.”
Gálvez and González Alonso are among the first of a group of 52 political prisoners expected to be released in the coming months.
Of these, 20 have agreed to leave Cuba for Spain, while another 11 have chosen to stay on the island. In addition to the initial group of seven that arrived in Spain, another two traveled Tuesday.
An official in the United States applauded the prisoners’ release and expressed the hope that this gesture represents “a step toward increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba.”
Philip Crowley, assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of State, said Tuesday at a press briefing: “We applaud the efforts of the Cuban Catholic Church, Spain, and others who have worked towards the release of prisoners of conscience from jails in Cuba.”