Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

Nov. 12, 1999.

CONDEMNED AS "PIRATES" FOR TRYING TO ESCAPE By Orestes Martín Pérez, Cuba Free Press.

HAVANA - All but forgotten, dozens of young men have languished for years in Cuban prisons for the "crime" of attempting to leave their country. The only difference between them and the beneficiaries of immigration agreements and "lotteries" is that they used government-owned vessels in their efforts to escape.

Instead of being charged with "illegal exit," authorities tried them for "piracy," a crime that carries severe penalties, including execution by firing squad.

In the public eye, piracy is associated with violence. But in Cuba, with rare exceptions, the only acts of violence in these cases have been those perpetrated by military border patrols or officious fishermen who gave up their last shreds of integrity when they sank boats full of innocents.

Whoever has doubts should recall the tragic events of the government's sinking of the 13th of March (13 de Marzo) tugboat and examine the piracy convictions one by one. The migratory agreements reached with the United States should never have overlooked the youths wasting away behind bars. If they were purposely excluded, it was done primarily as a concession to the Cuban government.

What makes the situation even more inequitable is that these young men, few over the age of 30 or 35, have maintained a firm stance against the abuses committed in Cuban prisons and their participation in politically conscientious activities is only matched by that of political prisoners.

As a result, some are serving out their entire lengthy sentences, since prison authorities can deny them whatever benefits the regime decides. The misnamed crime of piracy remains one of Cuba's many un-righted injustices.

Orestes Martín Pérez, Cuba Free Press

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