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Cuba Releases Second Dissident

May 16, 2000

HAVANA (AP) _ Cuba’s communist government on Monday freed the second of four well-known government opponents whose prison sentences drew international protests last year, a relative confirmed.

Economist Marta Beatriz Roque walked out of prison earlier in the day, her nephew Yoel Alfonso Roque told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. He said he had been scheduled to visit his aunt in prison Monday morning.

``I don’t know the reasons why, but I am very happy,″ the nephew said when reached at his home.

The first of the four, engineer Felix Bonne Carcasses, was released Friday after serving three years of a four-year prison term. When interviewed Friday, Bonne said that ``everything indicates the same could come to pass″ soon for the others.

Bonne said he had no idea why Fidel Castro’s government had chosen to free him, and why it had chosen this particular time.

Jailed in July 1997, Bonne had already served nearly three of the four years of his sentence. The four were not sentenced until last spring.

Roque had been sentenced to 3 1/2 years.

The other two opponents still jailed are lawyer Rene Gomez Manzano, sentenced to four years; and Vladimiro Roca, a former military fighter pilot and son of a revered Communist Party leader, to five years.

The four were arrested in July 1997 for criticizing a Communist Party document that they said did not present solutions to Cuba’s severe economic problems, and for holding several rare news conferences with foreign media.

The government accused the four dissidents of promoting aggressive U.S. policies toward the communist nation and trying to harm the economy by discouraging foreign investment.

The charges also included encouraging Cubans not to vote, urging foreign businessmen not to invest in Cuba and asking Cuban exiles to encourage relatives on the island to undertake acts of civil disobedience.

The Vatican, the European Community, Canada, the United States and others protested the sentences as excessive and called for the opponents’ release.

Cuban officials have repeatedly referred to the opponents as ``counterrevolutionaries and has rejected the characterization of the four as prisoners of conscience.

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