Source: JSC & Cuba-Network in Defense of Humanity
May 6 2016
by José Manzaneda
As part of the US government’s new approach to regime change in Cuba, President Obama visited Cuba on March 20 2016 and on March 21, held a joint press conference with President Raul Castro.
After the presentations by the two heads of state, the floor was opened to questions from the large number of international and Cuban journalists. Obama immediately recognized the source of the first query: Jim Acosta, the Senior White House Correspondent for CNN. As programmed, Acosta directed a question to Raul: “why [do] you have Cuban political prisoners? And why don’t you release them?”
Raul promptly silenced him by calling for the specific names of these so-called “political prisoners”. “Give me the list of political prisoners and I will release them immediately. Just mention a list. What political prisoners? Give me a name or names. After this meeting is over, you can give me a list of political prisoners. And if we have those political prisoners, they will be released before tonight ends.”
A strange set of 93 “political prisoners”
Now, the international press has mentioned 93 “political prisoners” based on a list presented by the well-known “dissident”, Elizabeth Sanchez. Oddly enough, however, but as expected by those who know the truth, these 93 make a strange set of “political prisoners”.
What does a close look at this list reveal? First, 11 of the 93 listed are not even in prison as they were released in 2010 through an agreement between Cuba, Spain and the Catholic Church and they were then granted an “extra penal license”. They live calmly in their homes and 10 of the 11 have travelled abroad to participate in events against the Cuban government and to lobby in favor of sanctions against the Island – strange “political prisoners”, indeed.
What about the remaining 82 who are actually in prison? Seven were tried exclusively for “common” crimes such as theft, illegal sales or refusing to pay fines. Strange “political crimes” undoubtedly. Five were sentenced for espionage and revealing state secrets. In no country would they be considered “political prisoners”. And here are some of the crimes for 61 of the remaining 70 on the list: acts of violence of different degrees some with many deaths on their backs; theft of ships or planes; rebellion and armed infiltration from the US; sabotage, military riot, attacks, threats, possession of fire arms, public disorders and damages
This is not exactly the activity of “peaceful opposers condemned for their rebellious activities” as we read in quite a few press media.
Only 9 have been accused of “contempt of court”, and are mostly awaiting sentencing of which there is no reliable information to make any conclusion.
The list is an absolute farce
In other words, the list presented by the large media as proof that President Raúl Castro lied last March 21 when he denied there were no political prisoners in Cuba is an absolute farce.
Now let us review some basic concepts such as “political prisoner” and “conscientious objector”. There is no unique and clear definition so I will only use the definition of Amnesty International.
A “conscientious objector” is – according to this organization – a person who for political reasons has not resorted to violence or advocated its use”. That is why Amnesty International does not consider that there is any “conscientious objector” in Cuba.
This organization, however, recognizes as “political prisoners” or “prisoners for political reasons” all those “whose cause contains a significant political element”, and have used violence. If we use this definition both in the United States as in Spain there are more than 500 political prisoners of different ideologies, even of opposition groups. In contrast, Cuba would have less than 60.
The mass media, however, transmits very different messages: they deny the existence of “political prisoners” in Spain or the US but assure unblinkingly that they exist in Cuba, linking them to “conscientious objectors” arrested only for their political opinions or actions .