Spain’s foreign minister has called on the EU to soften its stance on Cuba, after President Raul Castro agreed to release 52 political dissidents.
The appeal by Miguel Ángel Moratinos followed talks in Havana involving the Cuban government and the Catholic Church.
The EU has refused to normalise relations with Cuba until it improves its human rights record.
But the freeing of so many dissidents would be the largest prisoner release by the communist authorities for decades.
Five are to be freed immediately, the rest over the next few months, to the delight of human rights activists.
The move by the Cuban authorities would represent a significant shift from the days when they denied prisoners political status.
“I feel very emotional and I wasn’t expecting this kind of news,” said Laura Pollan of the campaign group Ladies in White. Her husband has been serving 20 years in jail for treason but could be out soon. “We’ve been waiting for news for days, but I never thought I’d hear that within two or three months all prisoners from the black spring would be released,” she added, referring to the 2003 clampdown on dissidents by the Cuban government.
However, there is some doubt over the future of dissident Guillermo Fariñas who’s been on hunger strike since the death of another activist earlier this year.
He has vowed to keep refusing food until 12 prisoners he has campaigned for in particular are released.
Cuban activist is cautious over prisoner release: http://www.euronews.net/2010/07/08/cuban-activist-is-cautious-over-prisoner-release/