February 7, 2011
Juan Carlos Chaves, El Nuevo Herald
Guido Sigler Amaya, the first of two political prisoners among a group of 11 dissidents who reject being exiled to Spain, was freed Friday from the Aguica prison in Matanzas.
``He is very pale, but very upbeat,'' opponent Oscar Sánchez told the AFP news agency.
``He is now with his family and a few of his fellow fighters,'' he said.
Earlier the Cuban Catholic Church had announced Sigler would be released ``soon'' together with government opponent Angel Juan Moya Acosta.
At the last minute, however, Moya rejected the offer of release, arguing that all the ill political prisoners should be freed first, according to information by the Miami-based Cuban Democratic Directory.
The developments took place at a time in which two other political prisoners from the so-called Group of 75 -- Diosdado González Marrero, 48, and Pedro Arguelles Morán, 64 -- launched a hunger strike demanding their immediate release and that of nine other conscientious prisoners.
On January 28, Blanca Alejandrina García de la Riva, González's wife, also decided to begin a period of fasting in demand of her husband's release.
In Havana, Moya's wife, Berta Soler, spokeswoman for the Ladies in White dissident group, said she would respect her husband's decision.
``Yes, I want my man at home, but there are always requests for those who are ill,'' she said.
On Friday, Soler and Laura Pollán, leader of the Ladies in White, delivered a letter to the office of the Archbishop in Havana. It was addressed to Pope Benedict XVI and asked him to intercede for the release of González.
``I request your attention to what is happening to us, ask for your prayers, and that you intercede in this process that is lacking transparency,'' the letter said.
Moya is serving a 20-year sentence in the Combinado del Este prison in Havana. Sigler received a similar sentence.
Sigler was the vice president of the illegal Alternative Option Independent Movement, which he founded with his brothers Ariel, a paraplegic released in June, and Miguel, released in 2005 due to poor health.
Elizardo Sánchez, president of the Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said the release of Sigler and potential release of Moya weren't related to the hunger strikes of Arguelles, González and García de la Riva.
``In any case this is a manipulation by the regime, which continues to trickle out people's releases in order to stretch the news impact,'' Sánchez said.
The possibility of Sigler's release without forced exile to Spain caught the attention of his brother Ariel, one of the 75 dissidents jailed during the raids and summary trials of peaceful opponents and independent journalists in 2003.
``These releases come too late and are not motivated by the goodwill of the regime,'' he said. ``They are the result of pressure from the international community and all the recent developments on the island.''