Cuban political dissident and family begin asylum in the Czech Republic

Radek John, Rolando Jiménez Posada (right), photo: CTK

The first Cuban political prisoner granted political asylum in the Czech Republic has arrived with his family and relatives in his host country. The dissident, who spent six out of seven years in prison in solitary confinement hit out at the regime in his homeland and thanked the Czech Republic for its solidarity.

Radek John,  Rolando Jiménez Posada  (right),  photo: CTK
Rolando Jiménez Posada arrived in Prague on Tuesday with his wife and son together with his brother and niece. The delegation meeting him at the airport included Czech Interior Minister Radek John.

Just a few days earlier he had still been in his seventh year in prison following a crackdown on dissidents by the regime of Fidel Castro in 2003.

Mr. Posada was jailed for writing and putting up posters critical of the government. He said that six of his seven years were spent in solitary confinement and how frequent beatings were dealt out to him and other political prisoners. And he described the decision to release him together with 52 other political prisoners on condition that they quit the country as delayed justice rather than any humanitarian act.

“We were prisoners of conscience. We do not consider this gesture of the government to be any kind of special humanitarian one. Basically we did not do anything apart from one thing and that was fighting for our rights.”

Rolando Jiménez Posada with his family,  photo: CTK
Rolando’s wife, Lamasiel, an independent journalist, also spent five months behind bars for her contacts with foreign human rights organisations and local dissident groups. One of her foreign contacts was the Czech-based charity People in Need.

It was that connection together with the offer in July by Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg to offer political asylum to up to 10 Cuban political dissidents that helped pave the way for the 11-hour flight from Cuba to Prague.

In contrast to most of the other Cuban political prisoners recently released who have chosen to go to Spain, the extended Posada family opted for the Czech Republic although they only speak Spanish. Mr. Posada said that in prison he had read translations of Czech anti-Communist dissident Václav Havel’s essay “The Power of the Powerless,” which pinpoints the powers of dissidents against a seemingly invincible regime. And he thanked the Czech Republic for the help it had given to Cuban dissidents.

Rolando Jiménez Posada,  photo: CTK
“We are grateful for the way that the Czech government has shown its solidarity not just regarding myself but for all the people of Cuba”

Since the fall of Communism in 1989, the Czech Republic has felt an obligation to help dissidents in other Communist regimes and has put Cuba high on its list of foreign affairs priorities. Unlike Spain, the former colonial power, which has sought to encourage changes by connecting with the Cuban regime, Prague has taken the opposite view, calling for a tough line against it.