Last five freed Cuban dissidents leave for Spain

23rd July 2010, Comments 0 comments

The last five of a group of recently freed Cuban dissidents left for Madrid Thursday, the Spanish Embassy said.

Jorge Luis Gonzalez, 39, Blas Giraldo Reyes, 54, Jose Ubaldo Izquierdo, 44, Jesus Mustafa, 66, and 47-year-old Antonio Diaz, boarded a commercial flight that will arrive in the Spanish capital on Friday, an embassy spokesman said.

Izquierdo, however, may take another flight out of Madrid for Chile, after Santiago on Monday said it would welcome him and his family.

The five dissidents completed the list of 20 who have accepted residency in Spain after Spain helped broker a deal reached on July 7 between the Cuban government and the Roman Catholic Church to gradually free 52 detainees.

The remaining prisoners will remain in Cuba or leave for the United States.

The US Interest Section in Havana on Tuesday offered refugee status to all freed dissidents and their families who wish to travel to the United States and began interviewing prospective immigrants.

The deal, the largest release of Cuban prisoners since 1998 when 300 dissidents were spared jail time following a visit by then pope John Paul II, came after dissident hunger striker Guillermo Farinas nearly starved to death.

Havana wants to avoid a repeat of the death in detention of political prisoner Orlando Zapata on February 23, as it seeks closer international ties to improve its slumping economy.

And Cuba's parliamentary chief Ricardo Alarcon has said the country was ready to release more detainees.

Elizardo Sanchez, the president of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization that is tolerated by the government, said a further 50 or 60 political prisoners could be freed.

Cuban dissidents said there were approximately 170 political prisoners in Cuban jails before the announced release.

© 2010 AFP

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