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Jose A. Gutierrez-Solana

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Exemption for Cuban Prisoners

Posted: 01/08/12 10:44 AM ET

My name is Jose A. Gutierrez-Solana, a former Cuban political prisoner, from January 1961 to January 1971. I was content when I came across the recent announcement made on December 23rd, 2011 by Raul Castro that the Cuban Government pardoned roughly two thousand nine hundred prisoners. However, the media spreads the recent law pardon, as a step towards a more open society, without an analysis of the details behind their penitentiary system and the governing laws.

For starters, according to official reports; only seven of those liberated had been condemned for political reasons. They are: Alexis Ramirez Reyes (completed 12 years in prison), Modesto Alexei Martinez Torres (completed 8 years in prison), Carlos Martinez Ballester, Walfrido Rodriguez Piloto, Yordani Martinez Carvajal, Yran Gonzalez Torna ( completed 21 years in prison) y Augusto Guerra Marquez. Furthermore, the number of prisoners who obtained the law pardon represents only 4% of the total imprisoned population, which fluctuates from 70,000 to 80,000 people, according to some estimates. A very large portion of the Cuban population has gone to prison in the last 53 years under Castro's rule. The mere fact that the influx of new prisoners exceeds the number of ones who received this law pardon demonstrates the decaying state of this once prosperous island.

In any democratic society the exemption of prisoners could be considered a good will gesture from the government throughout the holiday season, but in Cuba this is not the case. It is a political game used to mask the realities of a penitentiary system that is replete of prisoners, lacking the most basic hygienic conditions, and suffering from systematic hunger, as well as physical and psychological torture. This "gracious" law pardoned does not fix the totalitarian law which condemns any commercial activity, such as selling or buying food, construction materials, or any writing that could go against the ideology of the system, such as a pamphlet containing the Human Right's Declaration.

The law pardon that the Cuban regime has propitiated is nothing new, nor original. The system has always dealt this card as an escape valve to control the negative resentment inside the country and as a cosmetic cover-up in front of the world. These prisoners will be out of jail, just to come back to a society that is depleted of democratic rights. Therefore, I believe we need to look at the larger picture of the legal system that controls the society and the complexity of the penitentiary system. Because as long as the individual liberties and civil rights continue to be violated in Cuba there is nothing to brag about, nothing to celebrate.