Cuban Economist Vladimiro Roca Released from Prison
Vladimiro Roca Antunes was released from prison on Monday, May 6, 2002, 70 days before his five-year sentence would have expired. Mr. Roca reportedly had been told two years ago that he could be released 70 days early for good behavior. His release came one week before former U.S. president Jimmy Carter was scheduled to visit Cuba.
Mr. Roca was one of four members of the Internal Dissidents Task Group for the Analysis of the Cuban Socio-Economic Situation. The others were economist Martha Roque Cabello, engineer Félix Bonne Carcasés, and lawyer Rene Gomez Manzano. They were arrested on July 16, 1997. Two weeks prior to their arrest, the group had presented The Homeland Is for Everyone--a socioeconomic critique of a Cuban Communist Party manifesto that included a description of their vision of Cuba's future--at a press conference for foreign journalists. The four Task Group members were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three-and-a-half to five years on charges of sedition. The three other members were released in May 2000, before their sentences had expired, under Cuban legislation that grants conditional release to prisoners who have served more than half their sentence and are considered to have behaved well during their incarceration.
Although Mr. Roca appeared to also meet the criteria for early release, he was instead subjected to four years of solitary confinement, incarceration in a remote prison far from his family, greatly restricted family visits, and virtually no medical care for his high blood pressure. It would appear that Mr. Roca was singled out for particularly severe treatment because he had been a member and supporter of the Cuban Communist Party. (Mr. Roca--the son of Blas Roca, a Cuban revolutionary hero and founding member of the Cuban Communist Party--joined the Communist Party, served for 10 years in the Cuban Armed Forces, and subsequently worked as an economist for the government. After reportedly becoming disillusioned with Party policies, he chose to renounce his ties to the government and speak out critically about government policies.)
As he prepared to return to his home in Havana, Mr. Roca told reporters: "I plan to continue working like I was before being arrested . . . to continue the struggle because I believe I will see a change in Cuba before too long." His colleague, Marta Roque, who was released two years earlier, has returned to her work as leader of the Cuban Institute of Independent Economists, but must now work from her home, with funding from relatives abroad. She writes a socioeconomic bulletin and occasionally writes articles that are published abroad. Early this year she and her colleagues opened a new web site created to show life in Cuba from a dissident's viewpoint. The site contains news from some 130 dissident groups inside Cuba, monthly reports on various social and economic issues, as well as opinion pieces by Ms. Roque and others.
For more detailed information on Mr. Roca's case, please see his case summary