Cuba’s President Raul Castro has agreed to release 52 political dissidents after significant talks involving the Catholic Church and Spain’s foreign minister.
It is the biggest release of political activists in over a decade but it is not clear if the prisoners will be allowed to stay in Cuba or be forced to leave the country.
Cuba’s Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega said the first five would be freed immediately, with the other 47 to follow over the next few months.
Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos claimed the move will open a new era in Cuba.
“ I think that now there is no longer any reason to maintain the so-called ‘Joint Position.’ My colleagues told me that if we managed to close the prisoners issue, logically, the ‘Joint Position’ policy will be lifted. I hope that my European colleagues will respect their commitment. A lot of them had doubts, many were sceptical.”
Cuba’s Catholic Church has increasingly played a prominent role in Cuban national affairs.
The 52 men to be freed are those still held from 75 arrested in a 2003 government crackdown which led to the EU freezing cooperation with Havana for five years.
Leading Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya has welcomed the releases but he told euronews that Cuba still has a long way to go.