The first group of Cuban political dissidents has arrived in Spain following their release by Cuban authorities. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States welcomes the announcement that Cuba will release political dissidents imprisoned since 2003, and will continue to press for the release of all political prisoners still detained by the government.
Speaking with Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh at the State Department July 8th, Secretary Clinton said the apparent agreement between Cuban authorities and the Roman Catholic Church that led to the announcement is encouraging.
"We welcome this," said Secretary Clinton. "We think that's a positive sign. It's something that is overdue but nevertheless welcome."
According to press reports, the Cuban government agreed to release the prisoners after mediation by Cuba's Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega. The 52 prisoners, Catholic Church officials in Cuba have announced will be released, are reportedly the last among a group of 75 who were jailed during a 2003 government crackdown on political opponents.
The move follows the death in February of dissident Orlando Zapata, who had been on a hunger strike in prison, and the hunger strike by Guillermo Farinas, who has been protesting Cuba's imprisonment of political activists.
Spanish diplomatic sources told reporters that Spain will accept all 52 of the prisoners, 7 of whom have already arrived and the rest expected to follow within three or four months.
In its latest Human Rights Report, released March 11, the State Department said there were at approximately 200 political prisoners, as well as up to 5,000 people who had been convicted of potential so-called "dangerousness" without being charged with any specific crime.
President Barack Obama says the United States seeks "a new era in relations" with Cuba and remains "committed to supporting the simple desire of the Cuban people to freely determine their future and to enjoy the rights and freedoms that define the Americas, and that should be universal to human beings."