Represión – Cuba – Repression

How prisoner names were drawn up in U.S.-Cuba secret talks

How prisoner names were drawn up in U.S.-Cuba secret talks
BY DAVID ADAMS, MATT SPETALNICK AND LESLEY WROUGHTON
HAVANA/WASHINGTON Mon Jan 12, 2015 7:06pm EST

(Reuters) – Cuba’s deal with the United States to release 53 prisoners,
worked out in secret talks over many months, has left a number of
political opponents still in jail on the communist-led island.

The U.S. side drew a narrow definition for the people it wanted released
to include only those defined as being jailed for peacefully having
exercised their rights of freedom of expression and assembly, two senior
U.S. officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Left out under these terms were at least eight Cuban exile
militants jailed on terrorism charges after they attempted to infiltrate
Cuba with weapons, as well as 20 Cubans jailed on charges of trying to
hijack boats or planes to flee the island.

Several Cubans jailed on unspecified charges of crimes against the
state, including a handful of people believed to have spied for the
United States were also not considered for release.

The Patriotic Union of Cuba, Cuba’s largest dissident group, said on
Monday about 10 people, whom they described as peaceful political
activists, remained in jail.

It was not immediately clear whether they were among the original group
of prisoners whose freedom was sought by the United States. U.S.
officials said they would continue to press Havana to free people they
consider political prisoners.

The issue of prisoner releases was just one element in talks that
began 18 months ago to eventually restore diplomatic relations between
the United States and Cuba after five decades of hostility. The talks
initially focused on how to win the release of an American government
contractor jailed in Cuba and pull off a complicated spy swap.

LIST FINALIZED IN JULY

As the talks evolved, the U.S. officials said, both sides agreed to
take it further, delving into broader issues, including the release of
dozens of prisoners inside Cuban jails.

“As our discussions moved into 2014 the package that was envisioned
by both sides began to grow,” one of the officials said.

It was the first time U.S. officials have spoken in detail about the
release of dozens of Cubans considered by Washington to be political
prisoners, a key part of President Barack Obama’s historic shift on Cuba
policy.

The accords, announced on Dec. 17, included plans to renew
diplomatic relations while also securing the release of American
contractor, Alan Gross, and the swapping of three Cuban spies held in
the United States for a Cuban jailed in Cuba who spied for Washington.

One of the two key U.S. negotiators was Ricardo Zuniga, Obama’s top
Latin American adviser, who had once served as a human rights officer at
the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. His familiarity with the Cuban
dissident community helped guide decisions on who to include on the list.

Using information drawn from names of detainees provided by dissident
activists and international human rights groups, the U.S. delegation
drew up a list of what it considered to be a core group of political
prisoners.

Cuba agreed to all but a handful of the names and the final list of 53
was agreed in July, U.S. officials said.

“None of the 53 were released before we finalized the list in July –
when we agreed to the list, those people were all still in prison,” a
senior State Department official said.

In its Dec. 17 announcement, the Obama administration said the 53
prisoners would soon be released by Cuban authorities, cheering
dissidents. However, it now appears, the activists said, that by the
time of the announcement 17 of the prisoners had already been freed.

(Writing by David Adams, reporting By David Adams in Havana, and Matt
Spetalnick, Lesley Wroughton and Patricia Zengerle in Washington,
editing by David Storey)

Source: How prisoner names were drawn up in U.S.-Cuba secret talks |
Reuters –
http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/13/us-cuba-usa-prisoners-negotiations-idUSKBN0KM00320150113

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