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A Miami federal judge on Wednesday ordered Cuba to pay $27.5 million in damages to the mother of Omar Rodriguez Saludes, a journalist sentenced to 27 years in prison on the communist island. U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold’s 13-page order carves out $2.5 million for pain and suffering for Olivia Saludes of Louisville, Ky., plus $25 million in punitive damages against Cuba’s Communist Party. “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,” Gold wrote. “A punitive damage award of sufficient magnitude is needed to serve as a deterrent against similar acts in the future.” Pedro Martinez-Fraga, a Miami attorney with Squire Sanders & Dempsey who represents the family, said Gold’s order is not just symbolic. “Are we able to execute on this judgment? The answer is yes. Cuba has assets all over the world, including in the United States,” Martinez-Fraga said. “Cuban commerce is extremely porous and ever present.” Cuba never responded to the 2003 lawsuit, and Gold found the country liable last September. He ruled Cuba was not entitled to sovereign immunity because the damages are the result of torture and because Cuba has been listed as a state sponsor of terrorism. Rodriguez worked for Nueva Prensa, a small independent news agency in Cuba. He wrote articles about Cuban political prisoners and dissidents before his arrest in 2003. Gold said the journalist has been kept in a dark cell populated by rats and biting insects. His mother has lost her job because of the stress and relies on relatives, he said. “As a result of the imprisonment of her son and the deplorable conditions of his confinement, Oliva Saludes will continue to suffer mental pain and anguish,” the judge wrote. He based his order partly on the award given to the families of four members of Miami-based Brothers to the Rescue, who were shot down and killed by the Cuban Air Force in international airspace in 1996. Martinez-Fraga said there has never been an order like the one issued by Gold. “For the first time, a judgment has been entered in favor of a relative of a living political prisoner based upon violations of international human rights,” he said.

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