Photo Credit: Sharon MollerusAn air of secrecy surrounds the fate of 53 political prisoners whom Cuba agreed to free in its historic deal with the United States last month, as Washington and Havana’s refusal to publicly identify the dissidents is fueling suspicion over Cuba’s intentions.
Almost three weeks after the agreement, neither dissidents on the island nor leaders in the Cuban exile community know how many have been let out or whether any of the prisoners they are aware of are among those scheduled to be freed.
Both the White House and the State Department refuse to publicly name the prisoners included on a list U.S. negotiators provided their Cuban counterparts amid negotiations to normalize relations, although officials said a prisoner release was not a precondition for renewing diplomatic ties. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that not everyone on the list has been set free yet, but it was always understood that they would be released “in stages.”
“Well, we know who’s on there. And the Cuban government knows who’s on there,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, expressing doubts that the list would be made public.
The lack of transparency is contributing to a growing sense of concern that Havana will not follow through on its promises. Francisco Hernandez, president of the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation, cited the Cuban government’s track record of slipping in unwanted common criminals with legitimate political prisoners headed for refuge in other countries. (Read more about the political prisoners in Cuba HERE)