UPDATED, March 22, 2011 — Pedro Argüelles was released from prison in March 2011 and allowed to stay in Cuba.
PEDRO ARGÜELLES MORÁN: Prisoner of conscience
“If the communist regime does not respect my civil rights and liberties, how then can it ask me to respect its laws? It is precisely in this case that civil disobedience is to be employed.”
— Pedro Argüelles Morán, Cuban independent journalist and political prisoner.
Cuban independent journalist Pedro Argüelles Morán was arrested March 18, 2003, the first day of Fidel Castro's "black spring" crackdown on journalists, librarians, human rights activists and other dissidents.
It was not the first time Argüelles, 58 — who in April 2003 was sentenced to 20 years in prison — had been in trouble with the regime.
Eleven years earlier, in 1992, Argüelles had started work as a journalist, writing for Cuba Free Press, Nueva Prensa and other news agencies, and contributing reports to the U.S.-operated Radio Martí. He had been detained several times by the Cuban police, and he knew they were watching him.
Reporters Without Borders reports:
Argüelles knew he had a sentence hanging over him. More than five years ago (in 1998), he was charged with "affront" because he tried to smuggle out information on human rights violations from the prison where he was then detained for political activities. No trial ever took place, but he knew he faced the possibility of a two-year prison sentence at any moment.
He was also used to police harassment. He received a warning on 15 January 1999 from the director of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) that he was considered a "danger to society" because he did not work for any state enterprise. He was arrested 12 days later and held for 48 hours to prevent him from covering activities marking José Martí’s birth.
He then got the "sweet treatment," receiving regular visits from two policemen who came to "chat" with him about the situation in Ciego de Avila, voicing interest in hearing his views while alluding to the risks he ran.
Also a human rights activist, Argüelles was the "ninth person to sign the 'Varela Project' petition for a referendum on individual and public freedoms that was eventually submitted to the National Assembly with a total of 11,000 signatures," RSF stated.
While in prison, Argüelles has continued his protests against the Castro regime, by refusing to wear a prison uniform and participate in a "re-education" program.
And like other political prisoners, for whom guards reserve their worst treatment, Argüelles has suffered from variety of health ailments.
For more about Argüelles, in Spanish, 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.