HAVANA, Cuba, APRIL 19, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Cuban President Raúl Castro is stating that the process of releasing “prisoners of conscience” has ended, though the archbishopric of Havana noted that there is still work to be done.
On April 8, 37 former Cuban prisoners arrived in Madrid, Spain, after being released from prison according to an agreement initiated last July between the Cuban and Spanish governments, mediated by the Catholic Church.
On the day the prisoners arrived in Madrid, the Spanish foreign affairs ministry published a note in which it stated that the liberation process had been concluded as agreed upon.
At the end of the process, a total of 115 former prisoners arrived in Spain, accompanied by 647 relatives.
Castro also noted the fulfillment of this commitment in his address to the 6th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP) in Havana. He expressed gratitude to the Spanish government for its part in the process.
However, in a note published April 12, the archbishopric of Havana suggested that a similar dialogue could continue with governments of other countries that are prepared to receive former Cuban prisoners.
In addition to receiving the former prisoners, the Spanish authorities are providing aid in the form of economic assistance, housing, legal advice, psychological assistance, schooling of minors, including facilitating the approval of school and university titles, assistance in work integration and health care.
Three NGOs are also aiding the Cuban exiles: The Red Cross, the Spanish Commission of Aid to Refugees (CEAR), and the Spanish Catholic Commission of Migrations Association (ACCEM).
Many of the former prisoners are still waiting to receive work permits, Europa Press reported, and in the meantime are pursuing sporadic jobs in plumbing, masonry and carpentry.
In Castro’s address, the president also invited his political party to engage in “severe self-criticism,” so as to correct the deficiencies in the progress of the country.
Former prisoner of conscience Miguel Galbán Gutiérrez commented on the president’s address, noting on his blog that Castro “has made some adjustments, some slight adjustments in his plans to avoid the riots of the Arab world splashing him and his angering the population.”
Gutiérrez observed that Castro “is moving with caution, very well advised; the announced dismissals are partially blocked and the elimination of rationing has been slowed down.”