By Julianna Goldman
June 25 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama called on Cuba's
government to "unconditionally" release all of its political prisoners
and allow them to "fully participate in a democratic future in Cuba."
Obama, 47, cited three political prisoners who are the recipients of an
award from the National Endowment for Democracy, a Washington based
non-profit foundation. The president has said he is open to changing
U.S. relations with Cuba if the communist country takes concrete steps
toward democracy, including the release of dissidents.
"It is my sincere hope that all political prisoners who remain jailed,
including three of today's award recipients, will be unconditionally
released," Obama said in a statement.
Earlier this year, Obama removed travel limits for Cuban- Americans
visiting family in Cuba, ended restrictions on how much money
Cuban-Americans can send relatives on the island and allowed U.S.
telecommunications companies such as AT&T Inc. to get licenses to
Obama and other administration officials have said it is up to Cuba to
make the next move.
"The test for all of us is not only words, but also deeds," Obama said
April 19. "It is important to send the signal that issues of political
prisoners, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, democracy" continue
to be the main U.S. priorities.
Five Cubans were given the foundation's award. Three of them -- Jose
Daniel Ferrer Garcia, Librado Linares and Ivan Hernandez Carrillo --
have been imprisoned since 2003. The other two are currently under house
arrest: Iris Tamara Perez Aguilera and her husband, Jorge Luis Garcia
Perez, who was released from prison in 2007.
Obama said that they and other pro-democracy Cubans are "brave men and
women who are standing up for the right of the Cuban people to freely
determine their country's future."
To contact the reporter on this story: Julianna Goldman in Washington at
Last Updated: June 25, 2009 11:31 EDT
Obama Says Cuba Must 'Unconditionally' Free Political Prisoners -
Bloomberg.com (26 June 2009)