Friday, April 27, 2007

Exiled Cuban dissident writer Raul Rivero won one of several Ortega y Gasset Prizes that were announced Wednesday.

MADRID, Spain Apr 27, 2007 (AP)— Cuban dissident writer Raul Rivero has won a prestigious Spanish journalism award for his reporting on his native country, where he spent two years in jail on charges of trying to undermine President Fidel Castro's government.

Rivero, who is 62 and moved to Madrid in 2005 after being released from prison, won one of several Ortega y Gasset Prizes that were announced Wednesday. The awards, now in their 24th year, are given by Spain's top-selling newspaper, El Pais.

The jury voted unanimously to give Rivero the prize for journalism in recognition of his "tenacious and committed battle for journalistic freedom" in Cuba.

It praised Rivero, who is also a poet, for a life's work that is "very original and of extraordinary literary value."

Other prizes were given out in categories such as photography and investigative reporting. The awards are named for the late Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset.

Each carries a $20,000 stipend and a sculpture by the late Spanish artist Eduardo Chillida. The award ceremony is scheduled for May 9 in Madrid.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.


Rivero says he will go home some day
Associated PressMadrid, June 20, 2005

Cuban dissident writer Raul Rivero said he would like to go home once President Fidel Castro is no longer in power to report on the transition period in the country that kept him in a rat-infested jail cell for nearly two years.

"I'd go back, of course. I would go back to do journalism, to tell that story," Rivero said of the post-Castro era. "I'd start up a newspaper that would be freely distributed in Cuba," Rivero, a journalist and poet, told The Associated Press in an interview. Rivero, 60, is the best-known of 14 dissidents that Cuba's government released from prison late last year. They were among 75 independent journalists, opposition politicians and other activists rounded up in March 2003.

After spending 20 months in gruesome conditions in a Cuban jail, charged with working with the U.S. government to undermine Castro's communist regime, Rivero moved to Madrid in April to start a new life.

Living in a largely unfurnished two-bedroom apartment in an upper middle-class neighborhood of Madrid, these days Rivero writes and reads about Cuba, sharing his Spanish adventure with his wife Blanca Reyes and their 12-year-old daughter, Yeni.

He said he chose to leave Cuba after getting out of jail because the stated reason for his release was illness _ he has emphysema and kidney trouble - and he still had most of his 20-year sentence to serve.

"My release was a political decision. I still owe the Cuban state 18 years of prison," said Rivero.

"I did not want to run any risk. At my age, a 20-year sentence is a life sentence." He said that 20 years ago he thought he would always work in Cuba but that was before most of his friends and colleagues were jailed or emigrated.

Rivero worked for years for Cuba's official media - he was once the Moscow correspondent for the official news agency Prensa Latina. But he broke with the government after signing a letter in 1991 calling for the release of political prisoners. The other nine signatories have since emigrated.

In 1995 Rivero formed the independent CubaPress news agency, which published his and others' work in newspapers and Web sites overseas.Rivero said he never set out to be a dissident, just an independent journalist. "I'm just a reporter that writes what he wants. I'm not a professional opponent of the Cuban regime," he said.

He said his stay in prison was dismal. He lived in a dark, dirty cell less than 2 meters (yards) long, with rats, cockroaches and lizards. He caught many illnesses."Physically I suffered a lot, but spiritually I was never imprisoned. I felt free, I knew I was innocent," he said. He survived by reading and writing poetry and knowing that people abroad were working to free him. But he does not want to dwell on the experience.

"I don't want to become an ex-convict. That's a tragedy to me. I'm not going to be a permanent prisoner," he said. His current life is filled with opinion pieces for the Madrid daily El Mundo and poetry, and traveling to receive awards. But most important are his dealing with politicians, journalists and advocacy groups to campaign for the release of 21 other journalists who are still in prison in Cuba.

"My commitment is with the jailed journalists and with the 300 political prisoners that are currently in Cuba" said Rivero, who admitted that sometimes he feels helpless in the struggle. "For Cuban prisoners it's very important that there be dialogue, a policy of openness toward the Cuban regime.

Rapprochement is how we, the 14 people of the 75, got released," he said, referring to a drive under Spain's new Socialist government for the European Union to ease political sanctions against Cuba in exchange for improvements in its human rights record.

Rivero said he was optimistic there will be change in the future of Cuba, ruled for the past 46 years by Castro, now 78. "I think fate can't be linked eternally to one man," said Rivero.,001100040006.htm


Havana Journal
Read. Discover. Understand
Cuban Dissidents Raul Rivero and Osvaldo Alfonso Valdes Freed on Parole

Published: Tue November 30, 2004

By: Publisher in Cuba Politics > HumanitarianTools: Tell-a-Friend Email this author Printer Friendly This
By ANITA SNOW Associated Press Writer

Cuba’s communist government freed writer Raul Rivero and another dissident from prison Tuesday, the latest in a series of releases apparently aimed at cleaning up the island’s human rights record.

Cuban dissident writer Raul Rivero is seen with his wife Blanca Reyes and Yenia Perez, left, a girl who lives with the Rivero family, moments after being released from jail, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2004 in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Jose Goitia)

Rivero, among 75 dissidents rounded up in a massive crackdown in March 2003, had been sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of working with the United States to undermine Fidel Castro’s socialist government. Rivero and the other activists denied the charges.

Also freed Tuesday was opposition party member Osvaldo Alfonso Valdes, 39, who was also among the original 75 and had been sentenced to 18 years in prison.

"I don’t have any plans for the future,” Rivero said after he arrived at his Havana home. “I’m still confused.”

Rivero’s wife, Blanca Reyes, said her husband was released on a medical parole after a checkup at a Havana prison hospital for emphysema and cysts on a kidney.

The dissidents released Monday also suffered medical ailments. Economics writer Oscar Espinosa Chepe was hospitalized for months with a liver ailment, Marcelo Lopez has a neurological disorder and Margarito Broche suffered a heart attack behind bars in August.

Castro’s government made no public statement about the releases, but analysts said the government was eager to avoid the possibility the dissidents would die in jail, and to signal flexibility to the European Union and Spain amid warming relations.

The latest releases come just days after Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque announced his country has resumed formal contacts with Spain, although that country had repeatedly criticized last year’s dissident crackdown.

The new Socialist government of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said all Spanish political parties and the European Union should work to encourage the Caribbean island to open up.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Javier Valenzuela, spokesman for Zapatero, who on Tuesday was attending a one-day summit with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Cuenca, Spain.

“We think this has to do with the Spanish government: firmness in its principles while proposing more efficient tactics in its relations with Cuba,” Valenzuela said. “The liberation of a dissident is always a reason for joy for any democrat.”

International human rights groups, however, called on Castro’s government to free the dozens of others still behind bars.

“Cuba’s release of these political prisoners is a welcome move, but many more remain incarcerated in violation of their fundamental rights,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “We call on the Cuban authorities to release all of them.”
Vivanco regretted that the three men released Monday were freed on parole, rather than unconditionally.

“By granting them parole only, the Cuban government leaves open the possibility of returning the dissidents to prison to serve out their sentences in the future,” said Vivanco. “Its a way of intimidating them from exercising their fundamental rights.”

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said it welcomed the release of Espionsa Chepe, one of more than two dozen independent Cuban journalists jailed on the communist-run island.

“Their only offense was doing their jobs,” said the committee’s Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We again call on Cuban authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all imprisoned journalists, and to allow them to work freely.”

After his release, Espinosa Chepe spoke from his book-filled living room, where a small Christmas tree sat atop a refrigerator in the corner. He said he hoped the rest of the prisoners would return home.

“We are nonviolent people, who have not committed any crimes,” he said.

Despite the difficulties suffered in jail, Espinosa Chepe said he did not want to leave Cuba. “I feel Cuban and I want to die in my own country,” he said.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher welcomed the releases but said the detainees never should have been imprisoned in the first place.

“We continue to condemn the unjust incarceration of dozens of other prisoners of conscience in Cuba,” Boucher said. “We hope that they can return to their work to build a truly just and open Cuban society.”

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