Cuba releases 53 political prisoners

Winners and losers in new Cuba relations
Winners and losers in new Cuba relations

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Story highlights

  • The move comes as part of a deal to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba
  • The names of the prisoners were not released

(CNN)Cuba has freed all 53 political prisoners it had promised to release as part as an historic rapprochement with the United States, a U.S. official said Monday.

The names of the prisoners were not given.
The move comes as part of a deal announced December 17 to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba.
    Both nations have previously released political prisoners in a show of goodwill.
    American Alan Gross headed home on "humanitarian" grounds from Cuba last month. In a separate swap, a U.S. intelligence source held for 20 years was released in exchange for three jailed Cuban spies.
    U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf provided details about the timing of the releases on Monday.
    A small number of the 53 prisoners identified by the U.S. side were released in the summer and fall, she said. A few additional prisoners were released before December 17.
    "In the period since then ... the Cuban government has released all 53 persons whose names were shared by the U.S. government," Harf told reporters.
    She added: "We know there are going to be human rights concerns we still have when it comes to Cuba, but we are very pleased that they followed through on this commitment."
    Her point was echoed by Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, who commented on the releases last week.
    "Prisoner releases will be no more than a smokescreen if they are not accompanied by expanded space for the free and peaceful expression of all opinions and other freedoms in Cuba," she said.
    According to Amnesty, which cited the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, 8,899 short-term detentions were reported last year, compared with 6,424 in 2013.
    "The good will expressed by the Cuban authorities with this series of releases must absolutely translate into the implementation of a new human rights agenda. Respect for freedom of expression, assembly and association must be the next step if the Cuban authorities want to keep their credibility in the face of a world which is watching them," the Americas director said.