Cuba: Fifth Anniversary of the ‘Black Spring’

***To read English PEN’s letter to the Editor of The Guardian newspaper on this issue, please click here***

Today (18 March) marks the fifth anniversary of Cuba’s Black Spring, the crackdown in which approximately 90 critics of Castro’s regime were arrested as ‘agents of the American enemy’. One-day hearings were held behind closed doors, with the accused denied time to put together cogent defences. They received prison sentences ranging from 14 to 27 years.

Of those arrested, 35 were writers, journalists and librarians. External observers believed that their convictions amounted to a concerted attempt to suppress Cuba’s independent media, which was flourishing at the time. The crackdown prompted many other Cuban journalists to give up their professions or opt for exile.

Some of these prisoners have been conditionally released, on humanitarian grounds, since April 2004. Immediately before Castro’s resignation last month, three were freed and allowed to leave for Spain, for reasons which still remain unclear. Nonetheless, 21 other writers, journalists and librarians arrested during the Black Spring remain imprisoned today, under appalling conditions and without adequate medical treatment.

Six journalists whose situations continue to be of particular concern to English PEN are our Honorary Members Normando Hernández González, Adolfo Fernández Saínz, Julio César Gálvez Rodriguez, Fabio Prieto Llorente, Pedro Argüelles Morán and José Luis García Paneque. All six of these men have been in dangerously poor health for years, suffering, between them, from serious respiratory, gastrointestinal, kidney and prostate problems, as well as cataracts, arthritis and high blood pressure. 

PEN believes that the only humane and just solution in these cases, and for all those unlawfully arrested in March 2003, is to release them unconditionally.

For more information on English PEN’s Honorary Members, please visit their webpages:

Normando Hernández González
Adolfo Fernández Saínz
Julio César Gálvez Rodriguez
Fabio Prieto Llorente
Pedro Argüelles Morán
José Luis García Paneque.

The release of these men would demonstrate Cuba’s commitment to honouring the right to freedom of expression contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Cuba signed, along with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), on 28 February 2008. PEN urges the Cuban Government to ratify these treaties without reservation and introduce all necessary legislative and judicial reforms for their implementation.

To protest their treatment, please send appeals:


  • Welcoming the recent signing by Cuba of the ICCPR and ICESCR, however:

  • Urging the Cuban authorities to take steps towards the unconditional release of English PEN’s six Honorary Members (see names above) and all other journalists, writers and librarians currently detained in Cuba in violation of their internationally recognised right to freedom of expression; 

  • Seeking assurances from the Cuban authorities that all those presently detained are treated humanely for the duration of their detention, by providing them with the necessary medical attention and by granting them full access to their families and lawyers;

  • Calling for freedom of expression to return to Cuba under its new leadership.


Head of State and Government
Raúl Castro Ruz
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: 53 7 8333085 (c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs)/
1 2127791697 (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Su Excelencia/ Your Excellency
Dr. Juan Escalona Reguera
Fiscal General de la República
Fiscalía General de la República
San Rafael 3
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: 53 7 669 485 / 53 7 333 164
Salutation: Señor Fiscal General/ Dear Attorney General

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Sr. Felipe Pérez Roque
Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, Calzada No. 360, Vedado, La Habana, Cuba
Fax: 53 7 8333 085
Salutation: Señor Ministro/Dear Minister

It may be most effective, however, to send the above appeals via the Cuban Embassy in the UK:

HE René J. Mujica Cantelar
167 High Holborn

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