On July 13, seven freed Cuban dissidents arrived at Madrid airport in Spain. They were part of a group of 75 people who were given long prison sentences in a crackdown in early 2003. Their release followed negotiations between the Cuban Catholic church and Raúl Castro.
The Cuban president had promised the Spanish government that 52 of the 75 would be freed.
Madrid has urged the EU to reward Havana with diplomatic and economic concessions in return for an improvement in human rights.
On arriving in Spain, released dissident Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez said: “We are the first of a group of prisoners of conscience who have just landed on Spanish soil, after more than seven years of being unfairly jailed and in captivity.”
But the release of the political prisoners is not the Cuban dissidents’ only demand.
Opponents of the regime also want much wider democratic reforms. They include: a free press and freedom of expression; the disbanding of the so called political police – Section 21 of the State Security force – and the repeal of the so-called ‘gag law’ – Law 88 – under which Cubans can be jailed for up to 20 years for providing information to the US.
The opposition also wants more freedom to travel outside Cuba, to set up their own businesses to own private property and use the internet and watch non-state television.