San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Ricans imprisoned in Cuba for narco-trafficking come home

Seven Costa Ricans who were serving prison sentences in Cuba for drug trafficking returned to Costa Rica after receiving a pardon from the government of Raúl Castro, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday. The prisoners were among 3,000 prisoners pardoned by the Cuban government.

The six men and one woman who were released were serving up to eight years in Cuba. They were received by family members Tuesday night at the Juan Santamaría International Airport outside San José, a Foreign Ministry official told AFP.

Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Roverssi told local press that the seven were convicted for international drug trafficking on the island, but in Costa Rica they do not face pending charges or lawsuits.

Some of the prisoners covered their faces when they arrived at the airport’s terminal area, and the Foreign Ministry has chosen to protect their identities.

Roverssi said the Costa Rican Embassy in Havana is “in the process” of repatriation for the former prisoners, although their relatives covered travel costs. The deputy foreign minister added that another Costa Rican remains incarcerated in Cuba, also “sentenced for international drug trafficking, but his offense is greater.”

“However, we are making gestures to secure his freedom,” Roverssi told the daily La Nación.

On Dec. 23, Cuban President Raúl Castro announced in parliament the clemency for 2,991 prisoners on humanitarian grounds, including 86 foreign prisoners from 25 countries. The pardon, the most conceded by the Cuban government since the revolution 53 years ago, was awarded two months before the visit of Pope Benedict XVI. When Pope John Paul II visited the island in 1998, then-President Fidel Castro conceded pardons to some 300 prisoners.

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