Latin America & Caribbean

Cuba frees political prisoner who refused exile deal

Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique photographed a few hours after his release
Image caption Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique will be allowed to remain in Cuba

The Cuban government has freed one of 13 dissidents who have been refusing a government deal to go into exile in exchange for their freedom.

The prisoner, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, will remain in the country on parole.

In July Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to release 52 prisoners under a deal brokered by the Roman Catholic Church and the Spanish government.

Thirty-nine of them were freed and sent into exile in Spain, but the remaining 13 have refused to leave the island.

All 52 were were arrested in 2003 following a crackdown on non-violent opposition groups.

Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, who is 68, is now back at his home in the capital, Havana.

"He was freed and I feel very happy," his wife Lidia Lima told AFP news agency.

"We have decided to stay in the country and not to emigrate... At our advanced age, it is difficult to start a new life in a different country."

Meanwhile another of the 13 dissidents, Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia, is reported to have accepted the government deal and is expected to leave for Spain soon.

According to the independent Cuban Commission of Human Rights, he decided to accept after reaching an agreement to give his home to family members remaining in Cuba.

The government has refused to comment, but correspondents say the latest concessions may be a signal that it intends to release all of the remaining dissidents soon.

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