Subscribe

Cuba to release 3,500 prisoners, prior to pope's visit

The mass amnesty comes as Havana gears up for the arrival of Pope Francis later this month. 

  • close
    A sculpture of revolutionary hero Ernesto 'Che' Guevara is lit up on a government building in Revolution Square beside an altar under construction ahead of Pope Francis's Mass in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015.
    Desmond Boylan/AP
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

Cuba has announced it will release more than 3,500 prisoners ahead of next week’s visit by Pope Francis – the largest official pardon since the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro.  

Among the 3,522 to be released are prisoners older than 60, those younger than 20 with no previous criminal history, the chronically ill, women, some who were due for conditional release in 2016, and foreigners whose repatriation could be assured, reports Cuba's state-run newspaper Granma.

According to the paper, those convicted of serious crimes like murder, child abuse, rape, robbery with violence, drug trafficking, or violations of state security will not be released.

Cuban cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino said decisions about release were based on compassionate grounds, such as family problems and health issues rather than the type of crimes committed. “It’s a humanitarian gesture,” he told CNN.

This is the third time Cuba has granted inmates freedom before a papal visit. In 1998, Cuba freed about 300 prisoners, including 101 political prisoners, ahead of Pope John Paul’s visit. In 2012, ahead of a visit by Pope Benedict XVI, Cuba released 2,900 prisoners.

The most notable recent release occurred in January 2015, when Havana pardoned 53 political prisoners as part of the breakthrough December 17 US-Cuba agreement and included many known to international human rights groups as "prisoners of conscience," Reuters reported.

The pope is expected to meet with Fidel Castro – if the former Cuban leader's health allows – during his visit from September 19 to 22.

The Roman Catholic church has maintained a steady relationship with Cuba since the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro that established communist rule in Cuba, the BBC reports.  

Pope Francis is credited with brokering last December's diplomatic deal after the decades-old enmity between Cuba and the US.

"Both President Raul Castro and President Obama recognized and explicitly thanked the Holy Father for his gesture," Monsignor Jose Felix Perez of the Cuban Catholic Bishops' Conference, told Reuters in Havana.

"His mediation, without a doubt, was effective and in line with the Christian spirit that always brings out reconciliation as the solution to conflicts," Perez said.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK