Two Miami men captured in Cuba given prison terms
Two aging Miami men, captured inside Cuba two years ago with a
weapons and recently convicted for ``acts against the state,'' have been handed
long prison sentences by an island tribunal.
Displaying the supplies for the men's planned internal revolt
during a two-day
tribunal last month -- a tableful of guns, ammunition and medicine -- Cuban
prosecutors had sought to slap the two with 26-year sentences, which meant
they would likely die in prison.
The exiles, Ernestino Abreu Horta, 75, a South Miami-Dade engineer
head of a local exile group, and Vicente Martinez Rodriguez, 66, a Miami truck
driver and anti-Castro activist, are in poor health, Miami relatives said Tuesday.
There were conflicting reports on the length of the sentences.
Press said both men received 15-year sentences. Other reports said Martinez
received 10 years and Abreu 15.
The two, who have lost weight and are battling a series of ailments,
temporarily moved from a prison to a military hospital. As soon as their health
improves, the two will be sent back to prison, Cuban officials said.
A State Department spokesman Tuesday criticized the lengthy sentences
two Cuban exiles for illegally reentering the island. ``If these reports of 15-year
sentences are true, we think these are outrageous sentences in light of the
advanced age and failing health of the defendant,'' said spokesman Richard
As news of the sentences spread, the men's wives, daughters and
they will likely not last a year because of their age and poor physical condition. ``I
don't think my husband can take much of this,'' said Epifania, Martinez's wife of
40 years, who traveled to Pinar del Rio in late September for her husband's
two-day trial. ``He is emaciated. He has severe stomach problems they can't
seem to cure.''
Epifania Martinez and Abreu's daughter, Alicia Abreu, a Kendall
dentist, are trying
to garner local public support for the men. ``My husband never stopped fighting for
a free Cuba,'' Martinez said. Victor Martinez fought to overthrow Cuban President
Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and later became disillusioned by Castro and turned
Martinez, along with six brothers and a sister, was arrested and
jailed in 1960 for
counterrevolutionary activities. Martinez was freed and arrived in the 1980s in
Miami as a political prisoner. He quickly joined several exile groups.
``I hope and pray he doesn't die in a Cuban prison,'' said his
Blanco Martinez, of Miami.
Abreu is a well-known figure in exile politics. He is a retired
developer who headed the Cuban Patriotic Junta, an influential exile group.
The incident that led to their arrest began in 1998. As members
quasi-commando group known they called the Movement of Revolutionary
Recovery, the two decided to infiltrate Cuba to promote an uprising. They boarded
a boat and headed for Pinar del Rio, ready for a revolt.
Their presence in Cuba was quickly detected. The two men and Martinez's
nephews, who live on the island, met with them and took to the hills to avoid
capture. The nephews, identified as Rolando Corrales, Jose Maria Corrales and
Mario Martinez, were also arrested and tried. Their sentences ranged from six to