HAVANA – Cuban prisoner of conscience Pedro Arguelles was released and has returned to his home in the eastern province of Ciego de Avila, said the dissident, adding that he intends to keep up the fight for democracy on the island.
“I’m a civil liberties fighter, I have a commitment to Cuba, to human rights, to freedom and a commitment to democracy – that is my vocation in life,” Arguelles said on Friday in a telephone conversation shortly after returning home.
Arguelles, whose release was announced earlier in the day by the Catholic Church, belongs to the Group of 75 dissidents who were rounded up and sentenced to lengthy prison terms in a 2003 crackdown, four of whom are still behind bars.
The 64-year-old independent journalist was released on parole, as were seven other Group of 75 dissidents who refused exile in Spain and have been freed in recent months.
Arguelles said he will continue his work as coordinator for the Avileña Independent Journalists Cooperative, and among his first plans is a visit to opposition member Guillermo Fariñas in the city of Santa Clara.
After his release, the four members of the Group of 75 who remain in prison are Oscar Elias Biscet, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Librado Ricardo Linares and Felix Navarro.
Also on Friday, the Havana Archdiocese announced the freeing and exile to Spain of another seven prisoners who are not part of the Group of 75.
The Cuban government made a commitment in July of last year to free all prisoners of that group still in prison – there were 52 at the time – following an unprecedented dialogue with the Catholic Church supported by the Spanish government.
Havana was under international pressure to release them after one Group of 75 member, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died of a hunger strike in February 2010.
Forty of those dissidents left prison after accepting the condition of leaving the country and going to Spain. Much more time has been taken to release prisoners who did not accept going into exile.
During this process, Cuban authorities extended the scope of the prisoner releases when it began sending inmates sentenced for crimes against state security to the European nation.
They are not considered prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, nor does the internal opposition recognize many of them to be active dissidents.
A total of 85 Cuban prisoners have accepted the condition of exile to Spain in order to regain their freedom, the Catholic Church said Friday.