A federal judge in Miami has ordered the Cuban government and its Communist Party to pay $27.5 million to the ailing mother of a political prisoner in Cuba. This is believed to be the first time a U.S. court has awarded damages to a family member of a living political prisoner. Omar Rodríguez Saludes, former director of Cuba’s Nueva Prensa news agency, is serving a 27-year sentence. It was reported that the 42-year-old journalist’s crime was riding around Havana on a bicycle with a camera around his neck, taking photos of things the Cuban government preferred to keep in the dark.
This man was one of 75 dissidents rounded up in 2003 and he was sentenced to the longest term. His mother, Olivia Saludes, who now lives in Kentucky, sued the Cuban government for pain and suffering under the Alien Tort Claims Act. She says her son was subjected to inhumane treatment, including substandard food that still had animal hair and skin on it. It was alleged that her grief left her ill and unable to work. U.S. District Court Judge Alan Gold wrote:
I have no doubt that the acts of the Cuban government are intended to oppress those in Cuba who seek to freely voice their opinions and ensure the suffering of their families, and that a punitive damage award of sufficient magnitude is needed to serve as a deterrent against similar acts in the future.
The judge ordered the government to pay $2.5 million in compensatory damages and the Communist Party to pay $25 million in punitive damages, which was more than double what lawyers trying the case had requested. It will be interesting to see how this matter winds up.
Source: Miami Herald
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