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U.S. postpones meeting with Cuban dissident families

By Shasta Darlington and David Ariosto, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The meeting had been scheduled for Monday
  • NEW: The meeting location may be an issue
  • Some prisoners have refused to leave Cuba as a condition for their release
  • Nine freed prisoners are expected Tuesday in Spain

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- A meeting that U.S. diplomats had requested with relatives of some Cuban political prisoners has been put on hold, dissidents said Monday.

The U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana had reached out to relatives of political prisoners who refuse to fly to Spain as part of an agreement to win their freedom.

But talks planned for Monday have been postponed, said Berta Soler, one of the leaders of the Ladies in White, who are relatives of political prisoners.

"It seems it's a question of location," she said.

President Raul Castro's government has committed to releasing 52 opponents jailed in a crackdown in 2003 in -- an agreement negotiated with Spain and the Catholic Church. So far 11 have been released and flown to Spain.

Another nine prisoners are expected to arrive in Madrid, Spain's capital, on Tuesday, the Spanish foreign ministry said Monday.

The U.S. diplomatic mission also had invited relatives of about 25 prisoners who are supposed to be released but have not been contacted by the Cuban government.

Soler said it was not clear when, or even if, the meeting would be rescheduled.

About five prisoners have indicated they will not leave the country but many of the 25 dissidents who have not been notified also are expected to refuse to go, Soler said.

The group of prisoners expected to arrive in Spain on Tuesday will be accompanied by family members on a flight departing Havana, Spanish foreign ministry spokesman Juan Lugo told CNN.

All 52 prisoners are expected to be freed by mid-November. It would be the largest release of incarcerated Cuban dissidents in more than a decade.

They represent roughly one-third of all known political prisoners left on the island nation.

 
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