Cuba’s last prisoners from among the “Group of 75” dissidents rounded up and jailed by the Castro brothers’ regime in March 2003 were freed Wednesday.
The release of Felix Navarro and Jose Daniel Ferrer concludes a process began last July in the context of a Spanish-supported dialogue between President Raul Castro and Cuba’s Catholic hierarchy.
Fifty-two of the Group of 75 remained behind bars at the time of the agreement. While one died in prison in February 2010 after a prolonged hunger strike, the rest had been previously paroled on medical grounds.
“The reception was very moving. The entire family was waiting for me and I will dedicate my first days (of freedom) to them, before resuming the struggle,” the 40-year-old Ferrer told the Spanish government news agency on Wednesday from his home in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba.
Ferrer said he planned to continue working peacefully for political change in Cuba as a member of the Christian Liberation Movement.
President Raul Castro’s government found itself ‘internationally forced’ to free the remaining Group of 75 prisoners, but their release does not represent real change or an end to repression on the island, Ferrer said.
“Prisons in Cuba are full with all sorts of criminals, but also many victims of the regime and of the totalitarian system’s lack of freedom,” he said.
Sayly Navarro, the daughter of Felix Navarro, 56 said on Wednesday that her father was already home with his family in the western province of Matanzas.
Both Ferrer and Navarro were released on parole, as were the 10 other Group of 75 prisoners who declined to accept exile in Spain as a condition of their freedom.
The 40 other Group of 75 prisoners freed since last summer did agree to go to Spain with their families and a number of non-Group of 75 detainees have been released on the same terms.
Though the Cuban government is no longer holding anyone meeting Amnesty International’s criteria for a prisoner of conscience, dissidents say the island’s prisons still contain people who were prosecuted and sentenced for political reasons.