On Tuesday morning, after two days of silence, the Bolivian Interior Ministry announced the arrest and imminent extradition to Cuba of Cuban dissident Dr. Amauri Sanmartino Flores at his home in Santa Cruz, according to The Miami Herald.
A refugee in Bolivia for the past six years, Sanmartino, who is a medical doctor, was arrested on Saturday by armed men in plain clothes, according to eyewitnesses. He was then transported to the Bolivian capital of La Paz to await extradition.
Sanmartino was originally granted refugee status in Bolivia after having defected from Cuba by swimming to Guantanamo Bay. Under the controversial "wet foot/dry foot" policy of the US Immigration Service, Cubans are granted asylum in the US only if they actually land on American soil ("dry foot"). Because Guantanamo Bay is not US territory (it is leased from the Cuban Government), Sanmartino could not be granted residence in the US, and American authorities arranged asylum for him in Bolivia.
A prominent member of the Cuban dissident colony in Bolivia, Sanmartino has increasingly become an embarrassment to the government of President Evo Morales, a close ally of Fidel Castro. In recent years, he has arranged for and encouraged the defection of more than 100 Cuban doctors from the ranks of the more than 2,000 Cuban medical personnel currently in Bolivia on loan from the Castro government.
Santa Cruz, where Dr. Sanmartino resides, is known as a center of opposition activity against the Morales regime.
Spokesmen for the Cuban dissident community in Bolivia say Sanmartino is "A victim of the long arm of the (Castro) dictatorship," and the Morales government is complicit in delivering a Cuban citizen to "The gloomy machinery of the Castro gulag for the simple act of having expressed opinions in opposition to the system of disinformation, manipulation and indoctrination of that regime," according to the Spanish political blog, HispaLibertas (translated from Spanish by this author).
Osvaldo Peredo, spokesman for Morales' political party, Movement Toward Socialism ( Movimiento Al Socialismo, MAS) declared, "Mr. Sanmartino has violated his refugee status through his political activities and repeated attacks against the government."