UPDATED, Feb. 11, 2011 — The Catholic Church announced today that Juan Padron would be released from prison and take exile in Spain.
UPDATED, Feb. 2, 2011 — The Catholic Church announced today that Alexis Borges would soon be released and exiled to Spain.
UPDATED, Nov. 8, 2010 — Misael Mena and Juana Nieves, who are cousins, were released last month.
A couple of week into the Elian Gonzalez crisis of 1999-2000, on Dec. 6, 1999, tensions between the U.S. and Cuba got even hotter when six Cubans armed with knives hijacked a scuba diving excursion boat and forced it to Florida. Two people were reportedly injured in the hijacking.
The Cubans were stopped by the U.S. Coast Guard and three days later returned to Cuba, where they were tried and sentenced to long prison terms on charges of piracy.
Alexis Borges Silva, 26, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Leivy Herrera Garcia, 18, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Misael Mena Hernandez, 19, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
Leonardo Milian Rodriguez, 18, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Juana Maria Nieves Mena, 21, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Juan Junior Padron Sanchez, 21, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
These are not your typical political prisoners. By any definition, what they did was a crime, maybe even terrorism.
Until you consider the context of their "crime."
In Cuba, it is a crime to leave the island without permission. The Cuban Navy's job is as much to keep Cubans in Cuba as it is to protect the island from attack.
But Cubans still try, seeking to escape the economic despair and political repression that mark life in Cuba. Rejecting and escaping Cuba, even if armed with a knife or other weapon, is nothing less than a rejection of the dictatorship, nothing less than a political act. The dictatorship treats it as such; thus, so should we.
The six hijackers' "crime" is not the same as working as an independent journalist or keeping an independent library, but they are no less deserving of the world's attention and support.
One of the surest indicators of the repressive nature of the Castro regime is the jailing of several hundred political prisoners. To illustrate that reality, Uncommon Sense each week profiles one prisoner. There also is a Political Prisoner archive on the right sidebar. To suggest a prisoner for a profile, send me an e-mail.
For profiles of imprisoned Cuban journalists and related information, read the March 18 Project.