Freed dissident warns of chaos if Cuba resists sweeping reforms
Freed dissident warns of chaos if Cuba resists sweeping reforms Isabel Sanchez
November 16, 2010
HAVANA: Freed after years in prison and refusing to go into exile, a dissident economist, Arnaldo Ramos, has slammed the communist government, saying chaos looms if Cuba does not launch economic and political change.
”I’ll be involved in the same activities I did before they sent me to prison, which were not criminal but opposition,” Mr Ramos, 68, told reporters after his release.
Cuban dissidents hailed the release of Mr Ramos – one of 13 political prisoners Cuba agreed to set free, but who remained in jail for refusing to leave the country – and expressed hope his fellow inmates would also be set free within days. Advertisement: Story continues below
Mr Ramos is the oldest member of a group of 75 opponents of the Cuban government arrested in a 2003 crackdown on dissidents. He was allowed to stay on the island after returning to his home in Havana late on Saturday.
Under a deal brokered by the Catholic Church, President Raul Castro agreed in July to release 52 of the political prisoners who were still held. Of those, 39 were let go after agreeing to emigrate to Spain with their families, but the remaining 13 refused to be exiled.
The agreed-upon deadline for their release expired a week ago. Another of the holdouts, Luis Ferrer, has agreed to leave Cuba and will be released shortly, opposition sources said. Mr Ramos said Mr Ferrer changed his mind after Havana assured him his family would be able to stay at his home in Cuba.
Shortly after his release, Mr Ramos said the seven years he served of an 18-year prison sentence for dissident activities did not break his will to fight for human rights.
”I was told that my release was unconditional, and I would not accept anything else,” Mr Ramos said said.
”I owe nothing to anybody. I will stay in the country and continue my political activity.”
After joining the dissident group Ladies in White at their Sunday Mass and later their weekly protest march in Havana, Mr Ramos made statements critical of the Castro administration’s recent stabs at minor economic reform.
”I don’t think anything is being done to change the situation,” he said. ”We’re going from stagnation to chaos if we don’t see at least a real economic opening-up, although it should also be political.”
Dissident sources say some 100 political prisoners are still held in Cuba, in addition to those in Mr Ramos’s group.