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Cuba frees two political prisoners


Havana : The Cuban government has freed two political prisoners and released on bail a Spanish businessman in a gesture to mark the just-completed visit by Spain’s foreign minister to Havana , diplomatic sources said.

The political prisoners released are Nelson Alberto Aguiar Ramirez and Omelio Lazaro Angulo Borrero, and the businessman is Pedro Hermosilla, who Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos knows personally, the diplomats said Tuesday.

They added that releasing these prisoners is a sign that Spain’s new policy toward Cuba, based on mutual respect, “is getting results”.

Angulo was paroled on medical grounds some time ago, but was barred from leaving the country, despite his having a visa for Costa Rica. Those restrictions have now been lifted.

Aguiar Ramirez, leader of the Orthodox Liberal Party, is one of the 75 members of the opposition jailed in the wave of repression in the spring of 2003 and was serving a 13-year sentence.

He was freed early Tuesday and is now in his Havana home with his wife Dolia Leal, who asked that her gratitude be conveyed to Moratinos.

Cuban authorities Monday released on bail businessman Hermosilla, who had been held for several weeks and on whose behalf Moratinos spoke with Cuban authorities in their meetings.

Sources told EFE that his release took place Monday evening, as the two-day official visit of the Spanish minister was winding up with a three-hour interview with Cuban President Raul Castro.

The businessman, who is accused of corruption and will not be allowed to leave Cuba, has supplied hospital material to the island for decades.

Moratinos said Spain will suggest to its European partners a negotiated accord to replace the “common position” of 1996, which irritates the Cubans because it demands democracy and human rights on the communist-ruled island.

Spain led a movement in 2008 to raise the diplomatic sanctions that the EU applied to Cuba in 2003 when the 75 dissidents were arrested, two-thirds of whom are still in jail.

“We have spoken of the willingness to abandon, during the Spanish presidency (of the EU in the first six months of 2010), that common position, and replace it with a bilateral accord. That will be the chief goal of the Spanish presidency,” said the minister at the end of his 48-hour visit to Havana.

Moratinos said that Castro “has received with satisfaction the new attitude” of US President Barack Obama, who has ended restrictions on Cuban-Americans’ travel and remittances to the island.

Raul Castro “has welcomed positively the election of Obama, for whom he has great respect”, the minister said.