By Juan O. Tamayo
MIAMI, USA (MCT) — Former Cuban political prisoners met in Spain with Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega for a two-hour session Monday that a participant said dealt with many complaints by the released prisoners but remained "totally friendly."
"It was very positive that the cardinal wanted to meet with us in such a direct way," said Normando Hernandez, one of the dissidents freed and sent to Spain under an arrangement between Ortega and the Cuban government.
Hernandez said the dissidents raised a long string of thorny issues with Ortega, including their request for the unconditional release of 11 dissidents still in jail despite the Cuban government’s promise to free them.
They also asked that Havana annul the convictions and sentences still hanging over the freed dissidents, declare a general amnesty and ratify two international agreements on human, cultural and social rights, he said.
Hernandez said the group also expressed deep concerns about legal and other problems facing the more than 50 political prisoners who were freed and sent to Spain.
Most have yet to receive Spanish political asylum or work permits, he said, and some are still trying to win Spanish recognition for their university credentials and Cuban permission for several relatives to leave.
The meeting was nevertheless carried out in a "totally friendly manner and in a very diplomatic language," Hernandez said by telephone from Madrid.
At the end of the session, Ortega agreed to receive a document laying out the group’s concerns give it to the Raul Castro government and other interested parties, Hernandez said.
Ortega announced in July that Castro had agreed to free the last 52 dissidents still in prison from a 2003 crackdown against 75 opposition figures.
Forty-one were released and left immediately for Spain. A dozen prisoners not in the group of 52 were also freed and sent to Spain. But 11 of the 52 have refused exile and remain in prison.
Ortega told the Spanish news agency Efe after Monday’s meeting that the 11 will be freed at some point.
"I don’t know when. That’s not really in my hands, but I have a clear promise that they will be freed," he said.
(c) 2010, The Miami Herald.
Visit The Miami Herald Web edition on the World Wide Web at http://www.herald.com/
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.