UPDATED, Oct. 8, 2010 — Alfredo Felipe Fuentes was released from prison in October 2010 under a deal struck by Spain, the Catholic Church and the Castro dictatorship.
In April 2003, Cuban independent journalist Alfredo Felipe Fuentes was convicted of “acts against the independence and integrity of the state,” for sending news reports to Miami-based Radio Martí, and sentenced to 26 years in prison. It was one of the harshest punishments handed down to a member of the Group of 75 journalists, democracy activists and other dissidents arrested the previous month.
All of those convicted were sent to prison on trumped-up charges, but why did Felipe, a former sportswriter for the state-run media, receive such a lengthy sentence.
There are several possible answers:
— Felipe was an organizer of the Varela Project, "a constitutionally-based civic initiative that collected signatures on a petition calling for a referendum on democratic reforms and respect for basic freedoms." One of the items seized from Felipe's home when he was arrested was a poster of Osvaldo Payá Sardiñas, the founder of the Varela Project. (Payá, who was not arrested, last week proposed a new, democratic constitution for Cuba.)
— As a member of the Manuel Márquez Sterling Association, Felipe trained other independent journalists, according to Reporters Without Borders.
— Felipe was a multi-tasking dissident. In addition to his work as a journalist and for the Varela Project, Fuentes was a member of the illegal trade union, United Council of Cuban Workers.
In 2005, Felipe's wife, Loida Valdes, was one of five women selected to represent the Ladies in White as the group received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Union.
The Cuban government did not allow the women to attend.
For more about Felipe, who turns 57 on May 26, visit Payolibre.
For more on Uncommon Sense's March 18 Project, including profiles of other independent journalists, in and out of prison, read here.
To see pictures of most of the imprisoned journalists, go here.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
Reporters Without Borders has an ongoing petition drive asking Fidel Castro to release independent journalists in prison. You can sign the petition here. (A technical note: Reporters Without Borders is based in Paris, so the confirmation e-mail you will receive after signing the petition will be in French. Just in case you don't read French, the confirmation e-mail asks you click on the link to complete the petition signature process. Castro won't receive your message until you click on the link.)
For more on the Cuban dissidents, see the Cuban American National Foundation's Web site.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is find and read the work of Cuba’s independent journalists. A place to find their articles, in Spanish, English and French, is CubaNet.
And yes, this is the same Cuba that on May 10, 2006, was elected to a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council.