With Pope Francis’s visit to Cuba fast approaching the Cuban authorities have addressed one of the outstanding issues cited by its critics.
On Friday the state daily newspaper reported President Raul Castro pardoned 3,522 prisoners. They will be released over the next 72 hours.
Pope Francis arrives on September 19. Two previous papal visits to Cuba were also preceded by prisoner releases, but this is the biggest-ever.
In May 2015 the pope gave his first sign that relations with the Vatican were improving when he welcomed Castro to an audience in Rome.
But most of the running has been made by the man many are crediting with the warming of relations, the Vatican’s point man Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who has also been smoothing ties with Washington.