US Says Cuba Released Several Political Prisoners

State Dept. spokesperson Jen Psaki. Photo: wikipedia.org

HAVANA TIMES – The US government said Tuesday that Cuba released some of the 53 political prisoners to be released after the agreement reached between Washington and Havana in December, but declined to give figures, reported dpa.

“They have already released some of the prisoners,” said State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki at a press conference.

“As Raul Castro said in his speech on December 17, the government decided to release these individuals as part of the talks with the US. They pledged not only to America but to the Vatican,” recalled Psaki.

The State Department spokesman declined to specify the number or identity of released prisoners. However, she explained that the list was drawn up by the administration of Barack Obama.

Cuba, meanwhile, has not reported any release of prisoners under the rapprochement with the United States, after the releases of American Alan Gross and the Cuban born US spy announced on December 17.

Cuban dissidents said they were unaware of any release. The families of political prisoners on the island are not aware of relatives released, said the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and Reconciliation (CCDHRN).

“We’re doing two or three rounds of calls a day”, CCHRNC spokesman Elizardo Sanchez told dpa. To date “no release has been confirmed” said the dissident, whose monthly reports are cited by several international organizations.

Psaki was confident that the remaining political prisoners Castro pledged to release under the agreement with Washington will be out of jail “in the near future.”

Washington considers the release of political prisoners is “very important” and is “part of the discussion.” “It’s an ongoing process. We did not expect it to be from one day to the next. They committed to do so and we will continue to have a discussion about it,” said Psaki.

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Josh Earnest, was confident that the new Congress will support the policy change announced by the Obama administration toward Cuba.

Obama will face strong opposition in Congress, especially by Republican congressmen and senators of Cuban origin, who oppose any concession to the island. Starting today, Republicans have a majority in both houses, following legislative elections last November 4th.

Obama and Raul Castro announced last December 17 the starting of talks for normalization of bilateral relations between the two countries, which were broken off by the US in 1961. In addition, Havana freed American aid worker Alan Gross on humanitarian grounds and both countries announced an exchange of prisoners.


7 thoughts on “US Says Cuba Released Several Political Prisoners

  • I share your pessimism. The Castros will undermine the deal, because like the tale of the scorpion and the frog, that’s what they do.

    I have never thought Obama is stupid. Naive sometimes and misguided by his progressive ideology, yes, but he’s not stupid. And I will grant you he is brave enough to try to think outside the box. I just don’t think he’s as skilled a negotiator as he thinks he is. Also, he is rather vain and will cut a deal to leave an historic legacy that would cement his stature among progressives and liberals. Normalizing relations with Cuba fits the bill.

  • Actually, I did address Obama’s political ineptitude. By blind-siding his party in the Senate will not help him get this deal passed.

  • I can’t help but believe that this most recent attempt to normalize relations with Cuba will be stillborn. The Castros have a track record of raising and then dashing the hopes of the Cuban people. I expect commenters will read my words and accuse me of being negative. I have history on my side however. Under both Carter and Clinton, the Castros initiated and then aborted attempts to engage the US. Some will say that this time is different in that the Castros lack their Soviet benefactor and their Venezuelan wetnurse is circling the drain. That may be true but old habits die hard and the temptation to beat middle-age women and arrest dissidents on “pre-criminal dangerousness” charges is hard to resist for the Castro elite. You have accused Obama of being naïve while I call him brave to have done what he has done so far to repair relations with Cuba. Democracies seek the best in human nature. Totalitarian regimes prepare for the worst. Nonetheless, were Obama to do any more for the Castros without a major step from the Castros towards democracy, I would have to agree with you that Obama is also stupid. I don’t think he is stupid. Raul has boasted that he will not bend toward democracy. I believe him. I think he will screw this up by bending even farther toward the totalitarian extreme.

  • What you fail to address is the fact that Obama is a toothless tiger, as effective as a chocolate teapot.

  • It is good to hear there have been at least some of these political prisoners who have been released. But without clear information, it will be difficult to confirm the facts. Given their track record, the Castro’s are not at all trustworthy.

    And once they have been released, what is to prevent them from being re-arrested? There has been quite a lot of catch & release, rinse & repeat arrests of dissidents in Cuba these past few years. There were over 8000 political arrests in 2014, with many of them repeat arrests of the same dissidents.

    It’s not just the Republicans in congress who are critical of Obama’s deal with Raul Castro. Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was reported to be furious at President Obama who never consulted him about the negotiations. Menendez told a CNN reporter that the Obama administration “lied” to him when they told him there were no changes to US-Cuba policy being contemplated. As reported here at HT on November 20th,

    “One of the closest foreign policy advisers in the White House said Wednesday that President Barack Obama will not take executive action to ease the embargo on Cuba. He noted that any change of policy towards the island depends on the regime of Raul Castro showing “significant changes”.

    Unless Cuba is able to demonstrate that it is taking significant steps, I don’t know how we could move forward in our relationship,” said Antony J. Blinken, deputy national security adviser, during a hearing in the US Senate.

    One of the closest foreign policy advisers in the White House said Wednesday that President Barack Obama will not take executive action to ease the embargo on Cuba. He noted that any change of policy towards the island depends on the regime of Raul Castro showing “significant changes”. ”

    http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=107474

    Senators Menendez & Rubio feel they were deliberately mislead by that testimony. Obama has burnt his bridges to congress, including to members of his own party.

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