Imprisoned Cuban journalist is granted 24 hours at home

March 20 marked the sixth anniversary of the three-day 2003 crackdown on the independent Cuban press. That day, Oleivys García Echemendía was scheduled to visit her husband, imprisoned Cuban journalist Pablo Pacheco Ávila, at 1 p.m. at the Morón prison in the central province of Ciego de Ávila. 

Several hours before the scheduled visit, however, prison authorities called García Echemendía at home. They asked her to go to Morón immediately with a clean change of clothes for her husband, she told CPJ. At the prison, García Echemendía was told her husband had been granted a 24-hour permit to go home on account of his good behavior.

In an interview with U.S.-based Radio Martí, Pacheco Ávila said he had expected the worst–to be sent to a prison away from his home as punishment. Instead, he was surprised with the news that he would be sent home to his wife and child. At home, hundreds of visitors showed up to see Pacheco Ávila, he said. He was also able to speak to jailed reporters who are being held in different prisons, journalists who were released on medical parole, and family members living in other parts of Cuba and abroad.

The most touching part of the Radio Martí interview was the journalist’s description of the time spent with his family. Throughout the night, Pacheco Ávila said, his 10-year-old son woke him up repeatedly to ask if he was really there.

According to García Echemendía, prison authorities said all imprisoned journalists would be granted similar 24-hour permits to go home–depending on their behavior. García Echemendía told CPJ this rare occurrence had given the families of 21 imprisoned journalists new hope. “This could be the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “This could be a first sign of real change.”