Which 53 Cuban political prisoners will be freed?

The recent deal the Obama administration made with Cuba called for the release of 53 political prisoners who have been languishing in Castro's jails.

So where are they?

Cuban dissidents say that not only have the prisoners not been released, they also have no idea which prisoners are on the list given to the Cuban government by the State Department.


"We're concerned because we don't agree with the silence, because we have a right to know who they are. Who are they?" said Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White dissident group, which marches in Havana on Sundays to demand the release of prisoners.

"There are not just 53 political prisoners, there are more, and we are concerned that the U.S. list might have common criminals on it," she told Reuters in Havana.

U.S. officials have so far been tight-lipped about how the list of 53 was assembled and who was consulted inside Cuba. It also is not clear if some prisoners were kept off the list because the Cuban government refused to release them.

A U.S. official said on Saturday that Washington had asked Cuba to release a specific group of people jailed on charges related to their political activities, but declined to answer further questions.

Neither the U.S. nor the Cuban governments have said when the prisoners would be released. Cuba declined to comment on why more details have not been publicly released.

The dissident Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which keeps track of activists in the different opposition groups, counted in June a total of 114 political prisoners, although it includes 12 who are on parole after being released from jail plus several others who have since been released.

The group's veteran leader Elizondo Sanchez, who also spoke with Reuters, says at least 80 peaceful dissidents are on that list, including some whose only crime was to demonstrate or scribble anti-government graffiti.

Others include soldiers who deserted with their weapons, former government officials, people who tried to hijack an airplane to the United States and eight militants jailed for entering Cuba from the United States and trying to start insurrections.

The dissidents are worried that the Castro government will try to pull a fast one and release non-violent criminals among the 53 rather than genuine prisones of conscience. The fact that the State Department got no guarantees on the names of people to be released is astonishing. It points to the idea that this deal was done in haste and without sufficient preparation.

The dissidents - and the American people - have a right to know which prisoners will be released as well as when the rest of the prisoners of conscience will taste freedom. We should not let the new Cuban ambassador set foot in this country until all political prisoners are released from Castro's prisons.

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