Citing Illness, Cuba Frees Teacher-Activist From Prison

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Roberto Miranda, who led an independent teachers’ group in Cuba before being jailed more than a year ago as a political dissident, has been released from a Havana prison because of deteriorating health.

Roberto Miranda

Mr. Miranda was one of six dissidents released late last month who had been among 75 Cubans rounded up in March 2003 in a sweeping crackdown against opponents of the government of President Fidel Castro. ("Dissident Teacher Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison in Cuba," April 16, 2003.)

Reached by phone in Havana last week, the 59-year-old former teacher said he remains weakened by a heart condition, but is glad to be reunited with his wife and friends. He complimented the medical attention he has received since his release June 23.

"I have not been prevented from going to the doctor," he said in Spanish. "The hospitals have treated me very well."

But Mr. Miranda said that as a condition of his release, he must refrain from the political activities that led to his arrest and 20-year prison sentence.

Specifically, he cannot continue in his past role as the leader of the Association of Independent Teachers of Cuba, a 300-member group that openly challenged the state monopoly over education and its Communist underpinnings. ("A Revolutionary Education," March 5, 2003.)

Feeling Support

Mr. Miranda, who was fired from his teaching job several years ago for his political views, also doubts he will be able to offer classes in his apartment to young students as he did before his arrest. "When I left prison, I asked if I could keep giving classes," he said. "I have not received an answer."

He offered "eternal thanks to all who in one form or another knew of my case and the work of the association."

"Even in a place so difficult, I felt the support of the educators here and elsewhere," he added of his time in prison.

Last year’s crackdown on dissidents drew international attention, including condemnations by human-rights groups and prominent officials.

On June 25, Amnesty International published a statement welcoming the release of Mr. Miranda. But the London-based group added that it continues to recognize 78 prisoners of conscience in Cuba and called on the authorities to release them all.

The media officer with the Cuba Interests Section in Washington, which handles Cuba’s diplomatic concerns in the United States, could not be reached for comment.

Vol. 23, Issue 42, Page 17

Published in Print: July 14, 2004, as Citing Illness, Cuba Frees Teacher-Activist From Prison
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