Cuba Fulfills Its Commitment To Release 53 Political Dissidents from Prison or Penal Restrictions  

As mentioned in a prior post, as part of the December 17th joint announcement of the U.S. and Cuba embarking on the path of reconciliation, Cuba agreed to release 53 Cuban political dissidents from its prisons.

On January 12th, Cuba fulfilled this agreement by completing its release of the 53 individuals. This was announced by senior Obama administration officials, who said, “Our Interests Section in Havana was able to verify these releases.”[1]

The 53 Cubans were named by the U.S. in the two countries’ earlier negotiations based upon reports from independent human rights organizations as “having been jailed for promoting political reforms or trying to exercise free speech and other internationally respected rights.” (Additional details about the development and negotiation of the list are provided in a New York Times article.)

It now appears possible that not all 53 had been in prison. On December 17, Cuban President Raúl Castro said that Cuba had agreed to grant “penal benefits including release” to those on the list. That raises the possibility that some on the list were already free but under restrictions including travel bans that may have been lifted as part of the U.S. deal.

All of this was confirmed at the January 12th afternoon Daily Press Briefing. A State Department spokesperson said, “the Cuban Government has notified us that they have completed the release of the 53 political prisoners that they had committed to free. We welcome this very positive development and are pleased that the Cuban Government followed through on this commitment. These political prisoners were individuals who had been cited by various human rights organizations as being imprisoned by the Cuban Government for exercising internationally protected freedoms or for their promotion of political and social reforms in Cuba.” The spokesperson added, “During our discussions with the Cubans we shared the names of individuals jailed in Cuba on charges related to their political activities. The Cuban Government made this sovereign decision to release those individuals.” In addition, the Department of State has shared the full list with Congress and “fully expect[s] it will be in the public domain.”

Before the announcement of Cuba’s completing the release of the 53, some members of Congress and U.S. journalists revealed their impatience by being quite agitated over the fact that not all 53 had been released within three weeks of the announcement of the historic agreements. [2] My response: relax for implementation of a multifaceted agreement.


[1] This post is based upon Reuters, Exclusive: Cuba Has Freed All 53 Prisoners as Agreed in U.S. Deal—U.S. Officials, N. Y. Times (Jan. 12, 2015); Assoc. Press, U.S.: Cuba Completes Release of 53 Political Prisoners, N. Y. Times (Jan. 12, 2015); Malkin & Burnett, Cuba Frees 53 Prisoners in Deal to Restore U.S. Relations, N. Y. Times (Jan. 13, 2014).

[2] E.g., U.S. Dep’t State, Daily Press Briefings (Jan. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 2015); Assoc. Press, Cuban dissident says he believes 2 on US list are freed, Wash. Post (Jan. 7, 2015); Editorial, Three weeks after Cuba accord, why haven’t more political prisoners been freed?, Wash. Post. (Jan. 8, 2015); Archibold, Cuba Is Reported to Release 26 Dissidents (Jan. 8, 2015); House Comm. For. Affairs, Royce, Engel Call on Kerry to Publicly Name 53 Cuban Political Prisoners (Jan. 9, 20215).

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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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