Why is Cuba releasing 52 political prisoners?
Cuba says it will start releasing 52 political prisoners – the biggest release in more than a decade – today. Spain conducted the negotiations, but some Cuba analysts expect the US to respond by easing the American embargo on Cuba.
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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US views it as a welcome advance. "We think that's a positive sign. It's something that is overdue but nevertheless very welcome," she said Thursday.Skip to next paragraph
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The Archdiocese of Havana said that at the center of their negotiations with the Cuban government has been the political activists and journalists who were arrested in March 2003, what Cuban dissidents have dubbed the Black Spring. A group of wives and relatives have protested each Sunday ever since. Prior to now, some of the Black Spring prisoners have been released for various reasons, including health issues.
The Catholic Church has taken a more prominent role lately in negotiating with the Cuban government, viewed as a good sign by Cuba observers in the US.
“We see this as a very positive signal from the Cuban government that perhaps they will be willing in the future to permit or use other independent institutions such as the Catholic Church to somehow intervene in negotiations for the release of prisoners and perhaps other issues of importance to the Cuban people,” says Francisco Jose Hernandez, the president of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) in Miami.
“In the past, the Cuban government has been totally against outside interference pressuring them to act on any specific issue, especially issues that may have some political involvement.”
The announcement comes too late for hunger striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo in February, whose death brought worldwide condemnation from human rights workers. But another hunger striker, Guillermo Farinas, who is reported to be gravely ill from a strike he launched in February over the situation of political prisoners in Cuba, will end his hunger strike with the release of the 52 prisoners, according to a spokeswoman.
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