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Last Updated: Friday, 27 July 2007, 20:28 GMT 21:28 UK
Cuban dissident in elections call
By Emilio San Pedro
BBC Americas Editor

Cuban activist Oswaldo Paya in Havana on 7 August 2006
Mr Paya may be taking advantage of Cuba's political uncertainty
A leading Cuban dissident has called on the island's acting President Raul Castro to free all political prisoners and allow multi-party elections.

Responding to Mr Castro's Revolution Day speech, Oswaldo Paya said the government punished enough people for holding different political opinions.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro has not been seen in public since undergoing intestinal surgery last July.

The president ceded power temporarily to his brother but has vowed to return.

'Official response'

The comments by Mr Paya, one of Cuba's best known political dissidents, are not surprising, given that the regime's few vocal opponents in Cuba have been making similar demands, such as calling for the release of political prisoners, for years.

What makes the comments particularly relevant is firstly the fact that Mr Paya framed his comments as a sort of official response from the unrecognised opposition at such a pivotal time.

Secondly, it is the very public nature in which he made the remarks by posting them on his own website.

Dissidents like Mr Paya, who have languished in the political wilderness in Cuba for decades, are keen to take advantage of the ongoing political uncertainty that continues to reign on the island since Mr Castro's temporary departure.

In fact, it could be argued that Mr Paya's comments, while officially directed at Raul Castro, also serve as a reminder to the Cuban people and the international community that there is, despite government claims, a real opposition in Cuba which is prepared to enter the political fray if and when the time is right.




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