Cuban Dissidents Complain of Persecution Campaign

Relatives of the poet and journalist Raul Rivero informed Monday that he had been condemned to 20 years in prison for plotting against the State of Cuba. According to his wife, Blanca Reyes, the founder and editor of Cuba Press, now 57 years old, is not expected to survive imprisonment due to health conditions.

"He was given 20 years in jail; it is like life imprisonment for him as he is 57 years old and has many health problems", said Mrs. Reyes, outside Havana's courthouse. Rivero and other 7 Cuban dissidents were sentenced on Monday for charges ranging from treason and conspiracy to counter-revolutionary activities.

Rivero is a member of the Inter-American Press Society (IPS) and chairman of the Independent Journalists Organization of Cuba, "Manuel Marquez Stirling". Thanks to his international links, several governments and NGO's have been claiming for his freedom to Cuban authorities, since he was arrested this year in March.

"The Government is urged to put an end on this immediately, before the war on Iraq finishes", told reporters, activist Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz believes that Cuban authorities are acting now against dissidence, to take advantage of the overwhelming attention the international media pays to the conflict in the Middle East.

Another 78 dissidents arrested in March are waiting for similar sentences all along Cuban territory, said activists to the press in Havana.

Raъl Rivero is a poet and is also Cuba's most prominent independent journalist. He is the founder and the editor of Cuba Press. He was a personal friend of another dissident Cuban poet, Heberto Padilla, who was blacklisted by the Castro regime, forced to denounce his own work, and died in exile on 24 September 2000.

On Rivero's words, the Padilla affair alienated many writers and artists in Europe or at least made them skeptical, breaking the spell of love at first sight and leading them to understand better what was happening in Cuba. Heberto Padilla was a former Prensa Latina (Cuban official news agency) correspondent in Moscow.

Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina

Photo: Raul Rivero at his home in Havana.

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