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US Concerned with Cuban Political Prisoners Health


U.S. Concerned with Health of Cuban Political Prisoners

State Dept. says health of Raul Rivero and Oscar Espinosa worsening

The United States is deeply concerned with the failing health and poor treatment of Cuba's political prisoners, in particular that of Raul Rivero and Oscar Espinosa, according to an August 11 statement by State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker.

Rivero and Espinosa are both journalists who were arrested as part of the Castro regime's crackdown against 75 dissidents in March 2003.

Reeker said that the Cuban government appears to be going out of its way to treat the political prisoners inhumanely and noted that the health of Rivero and Espinosa has worsened since their incarceration. He called for the Cuban government to immediately release all political prisoners.

Following is the text of Reeker's statement:

(begin text)

Office of the Spokesman
August 11, 2003

STATEMENT BY PHILIP T. REEKER, DEPUTY SPOKESMAN

U.S. Concern about the Health of Cuban Political Prisoners
Raul Rivero Castaneda and Oscar Espinosa Chepe

The United States once again expresses its deep concern over the ill health and poor treatment of Cuba's political prisoners, in particular that of Raul Rivero and Oscar Espinosa. Espinosa is suffering from liver disease, edema, gastrointestinal bleeding, and other symptoms indicating a serious medical condition. Rivero has serious problems with his circulatory system and has lost a great deal of weight since his imprisonment. Their health has worsened since their incarceration. The Cuban government should provide them with the best possible medical treatment.

Mr. Rivero is a 57-year-old poet and journalist who founded the independent press agency Cuba Press. He was arrested and convicted of, among other activities, disseminating "false news to satisfy the interests" of the United States. He was sentenced to 20 years. Mr. Espinosa is a 62-year old independent journalist, who was arrested and sentenced to prison for 20 years on trumped-up treason charges. They were arrested along with 73 other independent activists, journalists, and librarians, during the brutal March 2003 crackdown.

The 75 prisoners are being held in appalling conditions, with very poor sanitation, contaminated water, and nearly inedible food. The Cuban government appears to be going out of its way to treat these prisoners inhumanely. It should immediately cease this practice and, at the minimum, allow an appropriate and credible humanitarian organization, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross or Doctors without Borders, to monitor the treatment of its political prisoners, whose only real crime was to call for peaceful democratic change in Cuba. All political prisoners should be released immediately.


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