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Cuba: Released Journalists Offer Their Testimonies

The US-based nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists is publishing the series “After the Black Spring: Cuban Stories of Prison and Freedom” with testimonies of some of the journalists who have been released from prison. In March 2003, 75 dissidents, many of them journalists, were arrested by the Cuban government in what has been called by some “The Black Spring.” After months of negotiations, which included the participation of Cuban Catholic Church, all of the members of the “Group of 75″ have been released.

Omar Ruiz HernandezThe journalist Omar Ruiz Hernández was recently released from jail and exiled to Spain. The following are excerpts of his testimony published by the Committee to Protect Journalists:

When I awoke on the morning of July 8, 2010, in the Guamajal Prison in Villa Clara, I couldn't have imagined that five days later I was going to be landing at Barajas International Airport in Spain, accompanied by five of my comrades […]

[…] We arrived in Madrid around noon on July 13, a date on which the superstitious would be ill advised to marry or board a plane. Nonetheless, for those of us that had just landed at Barajas airport, it was the best day of the last 2,684 days of our lives.

We had left behind the land of our birth, the beloved friends that had accompanied us spiritually through seven years of captivity and who, like some of our family members, we might never see again. But despite being in a different land, we were free men, and we had also left behind us seven years of dark cells, vexation, humiliation, malnutrition, nights of insomnia, and sudden jolts–every horror of prison, made worse by the lack of motive for being there.

Ruiz Hernández explains how life in exile has also been quite difficult:

We were driven to a hostel in a Madrid suburb, where, despite being without the comforts of a hotel, we began to get acquainted with the technological advances of modern life, previously unknown to us. Faucets with hot and cold water in the showers and sinks, hallways with lights that turn on as soon as you set foot in them, automatic machines that serve coffee or sodas, mobile phones and the Internet. In short, all that can be achieved when there are no limits on the free initiative of the individual.

After one week at the hostel, where I had the my first opportunity tell the world about the realities of the Cuban prison system, my family and I were relocated to the province of Málaga, a little over 310 miles (500 kilometers) from the south of Madrid, to a center for refugees run by the Spanish Commission for Refugee Assistance. We're still living here, alongside refugees from other countries, especially those from the African continent.

Life here hasn't been completely easy; living side by side with other cultures and customs never was. But even when one doesn't have to share a dining room or patio, exile is rarely easy. At the least, you're going to be hindered by the uncertainty and apprehension that go along with being submerged into the depths of the unknown in a land that isn't your own.

Finally, he thanks God for being able to be in Spain, and praises electoral democracy, which has been questioned during recent protests in Spain and other countries across Europe:

This exile has given me the opportunity to experience in-situ, beyond the comforts afforded by modern life in a first-world country, how dynamic a democratic country can be, where opinions don't always travel in the same direction and where the people, through the ballot boxes, have the final word.

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