Friday, September 24, 2021

Cuba pardons more than 2,600 prisoners

Havana, Jul 19 (EFE).- Cuba’s government announced Friday that 2,604 inmates – mostly women, young people and the elderly – have been granted pardons and will be released from prisons across the island.

The decision was made by the Council of State, a body headed by Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, the government said in an official statement that did not reveal their identities or indicate if any of the individuals were political dissidents.

“In reaching that decision, an evaluation was made of the good behavior of the prisoners while serving their sentences, the amount of time served, as well as the characteristics and outcomes of the actions for which they were punished,” said the statement, which was published on the front pages of Cuba’s leading dailies.

Among other factors, the Council of State took into account the age of the prisoners and whether they were suffering from any chronic illnesses.

The statement said that in all cases the inmates had already served a minimum of one-third of the sentences handed down to them by the island’s courts.
Individuals convicted of serious crimes such as murder, rape, pederasty with violence, robbery with violence and corruption of minors were not considered for pardons.

Also excluded were inmates convicted of fuel theft, theft and illegal slaughter of cattle and drug-related crimes, all of which are severely punished in the Caribbean nation.

Other groups of inmates who were not taken into consideration were recidivist and multi-recidivist inmates and ones who had received a pardon in the past and were subsequently convicted of a new crime, the text read.

In 2015, a total of 3,522 inmates were pardoned in a “humanitarian gesture” prior to Pope Francis’ visit to the island.

That news was welcomed at the time by Cuba’s bishops, who are frequently asked (by inmates and their families) to mediate to secure the release of prisoners.

The island’s government also freed prisoners in actions coinciding with other papal visits, including 200 when Pope John Paul II came to the island in 1998 and 2,900 prior to the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in March 2012.

The Catholic Church in 2010 entered into an unprecedented dialogue with the government of then-President Raul Castro in a bid to secure the release of 126 political prisoners on the island.

That process concluded in 2011 with the release of, among others, a remaining group of 52 political prisoners from Cuba’s Black Spring crackdown, a 2003 action that saw 75 independent journalists and democracy activists placed behind bars.

Havana denies that it holds political prisoners and routinely classifies Cuba’s internal opposition as counterrevolutionaries and “mercenaries” in the service of the United States.

In its latest report, the dissident Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, the only source of information on suppression of dissent on the Communist-ruled island, put the number of political prisoners across the country in February at more than 100.