Cuba Has Freed All 53 Prisoners as Agreed

WASHINGTON/HAVANA (Reuters) -

Cuba has completed the release of all 53 prisoners it had promised to free, the Obama administration said on Monday, a major step toward détente with Washington.

The release of the remaining detainees overcomes a big hurdle for historic talks next week aimed at normalizing ties after decades of hostility. The list of 53 is part of last month’s breakthrough U.S.-Cuba agreement and includes many known to international human rights groups as “prisoners of conscience.”

The United States welcomed Cuba’s action as a milestone, but senior U.S. officials said Washington would keep pressing Havana to free more people they consider political prisoners.

Lifting the secrecy around the freed dissidents, the Obama administration provided the full list to congressional leaders. According to a copy obtained by Reuters, they include members of prominent Cuba protest groups, including the Ladies in White.

The mystery that surrounded the 53 had played to Obama’s critics who say he has not pressured Havana enough on human rights in return for normalizing ties. The United States exchanged three convicted Cuban spies for an agent who had spied for the Americans. Washington also received Alan Gross, a U.S. aid worker jailed in Cuba.