Last Black Spring reporter freed; one still jailed in Cuba
New York, March 7, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes
the release of Cuban independent journalist Pedro Argüelles Morán on
Friday, and calls on Cuban authorities to eliminate all conditions on
his freedom. Argüelles Morán, at left, was the last of 29 reporters
arrested during a 2003 massive government crackdown on dissent to be
allowed to leave jail, on parole.
On Friday afternoon, Argüelles Morán's wife, Yolanda Vera Nerey, and a
Catholic Church spokesman confirmed the journalist's imminent release,
The Associated Press reported; he returned to his home in central Cuba
Friday night, news reports said. In a phone interview with CPJ today,
Argüelles Morán, formerly the director of the independent news agency
Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes in the central
province of Ciego de Ávila, said he can be arrested again if he violates
the conditions of his release. The journalist signaled his intention to
continue his pro-democracy work in Cuba, but said he wasn't sure yet
whether he would start up his agency again. "I will continue my fight
even if this means I will return to prison," he told CPJ. "And I will do
it here in Cuba, the country that I love."
"We are relieved Pedro Argüelles Morán has finally been released, but
are concerned that his freedom comes with strings attached," said Carlos
Lauría, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas. "We call on
the Cuban authorities to remove all conditions from the release of
Argüelles Morán and his colleagues and to allow Cuban journalists to
report the news without interference."
Argüelles Morán was sentenced in April 2003 to 20 years in prison under
Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy.
At the time of his release, he was being held at the Canaleta Prison in
his home province, his wife told CPJ. She said her husband suffered from
bone and respiratory ailments and cataracts in both eyes. The journalist
told CPJ today that he urgently needed cataract surgery.
Argüelles Morán's release comes two weeks before the eight-year
anniversary of the massive crackdown on dissent that resulted in the
arrest of 75 dissidents, 29 of them independent journalists, known as
the Black Spring. He was freed as part of a July 7, 2010, agreement
brokered by the Catholic Church for Cuban authorities to release the
remaining 52 Black Spring detainees "within three to four months," the
church said in a statement issued that day.
Argüelles Morán, 62, is the third journalist of the Black Spring
detainees to be permitted to remain in Cuba after rejecting exile to
Spain as a condition for his release. Journalists Héctor Maseda
Gutiérrez and Iván Hernández Carrillo were freed on parole in February
and have rejoined their families in Cuba. Another 17 reporters released
were flown immediately to Spain. (One has relocated to Chile and two
have relocated to the U.S.) On February 9, CPJ sent a letter to Spanish
President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero calling for the Spanish
government to push Cuban authorities to fulfill their promise to free
all journalists held since the 2003 crackdown.
With Argüelles Morán's release, one journalist remains imprisoned in
Cuba. Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández, director of the independent
news agency Havana Press, was sentenced in May 2009 to three years in
prison on charges of "disrespect" and distribution of enemy propaganda.
According to his colleague, Roberto De Jesús Guerra, Du Bouchet
Hernández has faced appalling prison conditions, including poor food and
Click here to read first-person stories from formerly imprisoned Cuban
journalists in CPJ's blog series "After the Black Spring.":