Cuban President Raul Castro granted an amnesty to nearly 3,000 prisoners on Saturday but an American convicted of spying is not on the list.
Castro told parliament that the amnesty was being made for humanitarian reasons ahead of an upcoming visit by the Pope.
Some of the prisoners have convictions for political crimes. Those found guilty of serious offences such as murder, espionage or drug trafficking will not be set free.
It means a 62-year-old US government contractor will stay behind bars. Alan Gross is serving 15 years for installing Internet equipment on the island as part of a US-funded development initiative. He denies accusations by Cuban officials that the scheme’s real goal was to overthrow the government.
There had been speculation that Castro would lift travel restrictions that prevent most Cubans from leaving the country. The president said he wanted to scrap the rules but argued that now was not the time given what he called “the hostile policy of the US government”.