Oscar Espinosa Chepe

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Oscar Espinosa Chepe
Born (1940-11-29)November 29, 1940
Cienfuegos, Cuba
Died September 23, 2013(2013-09-23) (aged 72)
Cercedilla, Spain
Nationality Cuban
Alma mater University of Havana
Occupation economist
Known for reform activism, 2003-2004 imprisonment
Spouse(s) Miriam Leiva

Óscar Manuel Espinosa Chepe (November 29, 1940 – September 23, 2013) was a Cuban economist and dissident.[1] He was one of approximately 75 dissidents arrested, tried and convicted in 2003 as part of a crackdown by the Cuban government nicknamed the "Black Spring". He was given a twenty-year sentence on a charge of "activities against the integrity and sovereignty of the State", causing Amnesty International to declare him as a prisoner of conscience.[2]

Background[edit]

Espinosa was a graduate of the University of Havana, where he received a degree in economics. He served on Prime Minister Fidel Castro's Economic Advisory Group from 1965 to 1968 before spending fourteen years as the economic adviser at the Cuban embassy in Belgrade, overseeing Cuba's economic and technological cooperation with Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. In 1984, he returned to Cuba to work at the National Bank, where he was responsible for trade and tourism.[3]

However, throughout the 1980s, Espinosa increasingly disagreed with national economic policy. When he discussed his views with a colleague in 1992, he was demoted, and four years later was fired. Espinosa began to write critiques of Cuban economic policy which he published overseas. He also hosted a radio program titled Charlando con Chepe ("Chatting with Chepe") in which he discussed the Cuban economy; the program was carried on the U.S.-funded station Radio Martí.[3]

Espinosa was married to independent Cuban journalist Miriam Leiva.[4]

Arrest and trial[edit]

On March 19, 2003, Espinosa was arrested during the Black Spring after security agents reportedly spent 10 hours searching his apartment.[4] At a trial on April 3, 2003, Espinosa was accused of "activities against the integrity and sovereignty of the State".[1] Authorities stated that Espinosa had received money from the U.S. government, and that US$13,600 had been discovered sewn into one of his jackets.[3] Espinosa was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.[1] He was one of approximately 75 dissidents arrested and tried.[2]

Following a rejected appeal by Espinosa, the Representative of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Christine Chanet, appealed to President Castro to pardon him.[3] The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush appealed to Castro on Espinosa's behalf, calling on the government to provide treatment for his liver disease. A spokesman described the Cuban government as "going out of its way" to be inhumane to its prisoners.[5] Espinosa's wife Leiva reported that he had lost forty pounds since his arrest and was kept in a cell with no windows or running water.[6]

Leiva became active in the Ladies in White, a group of wives of political prisoners which marched through Havana each Sunday protesting their husbands' detention. She continued to march even after Espinosa's early release.[7]

Release[edit]

Espinosa was released from prison along with fellow writer Raúl Rivero on November 29, 2004, after serving just over 19 months of his prison sentence;[8] It was his sixty-fourth birthday.[9] The authorities granted him medical parole because his already poor health had declined seriously during his incarceration.[1]

After his release, he called on the government to release the remaining Black Spring prisoners, stating, "The government really committed a very big error with us. We are completely peaceful and we want only the reconciliation of Cuban society."[9]

In 2006, Espinosa stated his opposition to U.S. funding for the Cuban dissident movement, calling it "counterproductive" and stating that the Cuban people must solve its own problems.[10] Following Raúl Castro's assumption of the presidency, Espinosa expressed his hope that Castro could be the Deng Xiaoping of Cuba, improving the economy and the standard of living.[11]

Death[edit]

He died of liver disease on September 23, 2013, in Spain.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Oscar Espinosa Chepe". English PEN. Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Cuba: One year too many: prisoners of conscience from the March 2003 crackdown". Amnesty International. March 16, 2004. Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Case Information: Oscar Manual Espinosa Chepe". National Academy of Sciences Committee on Human Rights. 2012. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Miriam Leiva (March 26, 2003). "EU and Havana: Too close to Castro". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  5. ^ "Treat Dissident, U.S. Tells Cuba". The New York Times. June 3, 2003. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "Cuban Dissidents Reportedly Face Harsh Jail Conditions". The Los Angeles Times. Times Wire Service. February 15, 2004. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  7. ^ Will Weissert (July 15, 2007). "A dose of free speech, Cuba-style". The Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "Writer Raúl Rivero and journalist Oscar Espinosa Chepe released from prison". Committee to Protect Journalists. December 1, 2004. Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b "Cuba frees political dissidents". BBC News. November 29, 2004. Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  10. ^ "US approves Cuba "democracy" plan". BBC News. 11 December 2006. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  11. ^ Anthony Boadle (August 11, 2008). "Letter from Cuba: With Castro sidelined, hope mixes with fear - Americas - International Herald Tribune". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  12. ^ Andrea Rodriguez and — Associated Press (September 23, 2013). "Oscar Espinosa Chepe, Cuban economist imprisoned during the Black Spring, dies at 72". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-09-25.