Summary and Current Status
On November 13, 2010, after serving more than 7 years and 7 months of his 18-year prison term, Cuban economist Arnaldo Ramos Lauzarique was released from prison on humanitarian grounds. His release reportedly is unconditional.
Mr. Ramos was arrested on March 19, 2003, after he engaged in peaceful political activities as a dissident. He was one of 75 Cubans who were arrested, summarily tried, and convicted as part of a massive crackdown by the Cuban government. Amnesty International adopted all of these individuals, including, Mr. Ramos, as prisoners of conscience.
An economist by training, over the years Arnaldo Ramos Lauzarique became increasingly critical of the Cuban government. He is deputy director of the Cuban Institute for Independent Economists (Instituto Cubano de Economistas Independientes) and a member of an umbrella group called the Assembly to Promote Civil Society (Asamblea para Promover la Sociedad Civil). In both of these organizations he has worked closely with Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, a prominent Cuban dissident whose case also was adopted by the CHR.
On March 19, 2003, Mr. Ramos was arrested by Cuban authorities, who confiscated six radios from his home. He was charged with violating Article 91 of the Cuban Penal Code, which stipulates that “he who, in the interest of a foreign state, commits an act with the objective of damaging the independent or territorial integrity of the Cuban State, incurs the penalty of ten to twenty years imprisonment or death.”
On April 3, 2003, Mr. Ramos was brought to trial together with Ms. Roque and four other dissidents. He was convicted by the People’s Provincial Court of the city of Havana and sentenced to 18 years in prison. The verdict was upheld on appeal.
The legal proceedings against Mr. Ramos failed to meet international fair trial standards in a number of ways. His trial, in which summary procedures were used, reportedly took only about four hours and was closed to Western diplomats and most international journalists. To our knowledge, no credible evidence was produced to support the government’s allegations that. Mr. Ramos had been engaged in subversive activities for which he received U.S. government funds. According to reliable sources, Mr. Ramos was not given adequate access to his lawyer. He was only able to speak with her for about five minutes moments before the trial started, thus making it impossible for her to prepare an adequate defense. Furthermore, before Mr. Ramos and the other 74 dissidents who were arrested in March 2003 had been brought to trial and given the opportunity to defend themselves, the Cuban government announced their detention on national television and reportedly accused them of being linked to “acts of conspiracy,” through contact with the U.S. Interests Section in Havana—thereby depriving them of their fundamental right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty in a public trial, as promulgated by Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
Following his conviction, Mr. Ramos was transferred to a provincial prison in Holguín, about 700 kilometers from where his family resides in Havana. From May 15, 2003, until June 1, 2010, when Cuban authorities transferred Mr. Ramos to a different prison facility, he reportedly was subjected to a “maximum severity” regimen and harsh conditions of confinement. Under this regimen two members of his immediate family were permitted to visit him every three months, and he was permitted a conjugal visit every five months. He reportedly was held in solitary confinement in a cell that measured approximately 1.7 by 3 meters and had no electric light.
Mr. Ramos’ case was submitted to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. In a May 9, 2003, opinion, the Working Group declared his imprisonment to be arbitrary in contravention of articles 19, 20, and 21 of the UDHR.
During his imprisonment Mr. Ramos participated in two hunger strikes. From August 15-25, 2003, he and another prisoner named Mario Enrique Mayo went on a hunger strike to demand better medical attention and food for prisoners in the facility where they are incarcerated. Later, on October 18, 2003, Mr. Ramos reportedly joined four other prisoners in a hunger strike to protest the transfer of fellow prisoner Iván Hernández Carrillo to a “punishment cell” the previous day after he reportedly shouted criticisms of the government and accused prison authorities of denying him medical assistance. On November 6, 2003, five women relatives of the hunger strikers traveled to Holguín prison. They were told that the hunger strike had ended that day, but were not permitted to visit Mr. Ramos or the other prisoners.
On June 1, 2010, following private conversations between Cuban President Raúl Castro and Cardinal Jaime Ortega of the Roman Catholic Church, Cuban authorities transferred Mr. Ramos to “El Pitirre” prison, commonly referred to as “Unit 1580,” a maximum security facility in the municipality of San Miguel del Padrón near Havana. This prison was in closer proximity to his home and family.
In early July 2010, following another round of conversations between President Castro and Cardinal Ortega and during a visit to Cuba by Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, an announcement was made that over the course of the next 4 months the Cuban government would release from prison all 52 men who remained in prison from the original group of 75 mentioned in the summary section above. During the months that followed, the Cuban government released 40 of the 52 men from prison, and they were flown to Spain, together with several members of their families. Mr. Ramos was one of the remaining 12 prisoners who refused to agree to release from prison that was conditioned upon immediate departure from Cuba or was granted as medical parole.
On November 13, 2010, an official statement by the Catholic Church said that Mr. Ramos had been granted humanitarian parole. Upon his arrival at his home in central Havana, various media outlets quoted Mr. Ramos as saying: They told me the release is unconditional. I did not accept anything else. I do not owe anything to anyone. I am staying and I will continue my political activity.