The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Brenda Bowser Soder

Group Welcomes Announced Release of 52 Political Prisoners in Cuba, Calls for Lifting of Restrictions on Island's Indepedent Human Rights Defenders


Human Rights First today welcomed the Cuban government's announcement
that it would release 52 political prisoners. Today's announcement
comes seven years after some 75 human rights defenders, independent
journalists, economists and librarians were sentenced to up to 28 years
in prison in one of the harshest crackdowns on civil society seen on the

"In the face of persistent threats, insults and their government's
attempts to silence them, human rights defenders in Cuba have continued
to struggle for justice and freedom." said Human Rights First's Elisa
Massimino. "While we welcome the pending release of these political
prisoners, we recognize Cuba continues to jail individuals for the
non-violent expression of their opinions, and that independent human
rights defenders in Cuba continue to be denied their basic rights to
freedom of expression, association and assembly."

During its 2006 human rights awards dinner, Human Rights First
honored las Damas de Blanco (the Ladies in White). This Cuban advocacy
organization is made up of the wives, daughters and relatives of
political prisoners, including many of the individuals whose pending
release was announced today. Every Sunday, dressed in white, the women
meet at mass in the Santa Rita church and then walk down Fifth Avenue in
Havana in silent protest of the unjust incarceration of their relatives
and the lack of fundamental freedoms in Cuba. Since the organization
was founded there have been efforts to silence their voices, but las
Damas de Blanco remained unrelenting in demanding the unconditional
release of all political prisoners.

"Las Damas de Blanco and every human rights defender in Cuba who
played a role in today's release have demonstrated to the world that
sustained advocacy of justice and human rights can produce results."
concluded Massimino. "But durable change will only come when the Cuban
government changes its policies and practices to end interference with
fundamental freedoms and suppression of human rights defenders and other
independent civil society activists."

Spain has agreed to take in the 52 dissidents released by Cuba.
According to news reports, these political prisoners will all be
resettled within three to four months. For more information about las
Damas de Blanco, visit
(in Spanish) or

Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.