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Cablegate: Freed Cuban Prisoners Grateful to President Bush

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMD #0346 0791456
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191456Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4521
INFO RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA PRIORITY 0259

UNCLAS MADRID 000346

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR ACTING UNDER SECRETARY FRIED, P
WHA FOR A/S TOM SHANNON, DAS KIRSTEN MADISON, AND CALEB
MCCARRY
EUR FOR ACTING A/S VOLKER, EUR/WE DIRECTOR KATHY ALLEGRONE
NSC FOR DAN FISK, JUDY ANSLEY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL SP
SUBJECT: FREED CUBAN PRISONERS GRATEFUL TO PRESIDENT BUSH

REF: A. AMBASSADOR AGUIRRE'S E-MAILS OF 3/17/2008

B. MADRID 283

1. (U) On March 13, Ambassador Aguirre hosted a follow-up
meeting with Omar Pernet and Alejandro Gonzlez-Raga. The
two, until recently, had been political prisoners in Cuba.
Both of these remarkable individuals individually pressed the
Ambassador to personally convey their gratitude to President
Bush for his support of Cuban political prisoners, Cuban
dissidents, and a democratic Cuba.

2. (U) Omar Pernet recounted how, in prison, he hid a small
transistor radio inside a bar of soap. Late at night, he
would listen to Radio Marti, hearing messages from President
Bush. Those messages nourished his soul and kept him alive!
Pernet, in particular, mentioned how much he appreciated the
President,s mentioning him by name during remarks made at
the State Department on October 24, 2007. President Bush had
invited Mr. Pernet, s family to be present as well, honoring
them and Omar during his statement. Omar and Alejandro
earnestly expressed their gratitude for the President,s past
statements and the solidarity of the United States with the
people of Cuba. They appreciated the Ambassador,s message
that, to them, the Madrid Residence is also President Bush,s
home in Spain.

3. (U) The Ambassador and the Embassy staff have been in
personal contact with four recently freed Cuban political
prisoners who arrived in Spain about a month ago. Cuban and
Spanish authorities met in Madrid on February 11, as part of
a revived Spain-Cuba Human Rights Dialogue. Spain provided
Cuba a list of names of prisoners of concern, including Oscar
Biscet. Less than a week later, up to seven prisoners were
released (of course, Biscet was not among them) and four from
the group of 75 arrested in 2003 were allowed to travel to
Spain for medical treatment. They and their immediate
families arrived in Madrid on February 17.

4. (U) On March 4, soon after their arrival in Madrid, Omar
Pernet, Jos Gabriel Ramn Castillo, Pedro Pablo Alvarez
Ramos, and Alejandro Gonzlez-Raga were invited for a group
meeting with the Ambassador and his wife at his Residence
(ref B). Over coffee, they told the story of their sudden
release and whirlwind trip to Spain. They were encouraged to
share any concerns or requests. Since such a setting is a
little cumbersome, for four individuals to compete for time
to tell their compelling stories, the Ambassador offered to
meet with each of them individually to discuss their
particular situations. Omar and Alejandro returned March 13
for their individualized visit. The discussion centered on
Cuba,s democratic future, their own status in Spain, their
medical conditions, and their concerns on behalf of family
members in the United States as well as in Cuba.

5. (SBU) COMMENT: Their situation here is unique. They are
completely dependent for their subsistence on the GOS and the
goodwill of the Cuban community. They are trying to formalize
their understanding with the GOS of future assistance, to
what extent, and for how long. Each of them will have to make
decisions about long-term plans, employment, and asylum or
residency based on his individual and familial circumstances.

6. (U) While their welfare is primarily the concern of the
GOS, we have established ties to these dissidents and plan to
stay in close touch. We will also encourage senior Spanish
officials to meet with them and hear of their experiences and
hopes for a democratic Cuba. We also plan to respond with
prompt and accurate information about U.S. visa laws, and
provide VIP customer service at our Consular Section, should
they wish to apply for visas to visit family members in the
United States.
AGUIRRE

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