The recent changes in policy regarding the cooperation between the United States and Cuba has been greeted by many with optimism, however there are some aspects of the new found diplomacy that have left many scratching their heads.
One of the biggest mysteries currently being explored is the fact that nobody seems to know anything about the 53 political prisoners who are to be released by United States officials from jail as part of the deal to end hostility between Cuba and the US.
According to Reuters, for years, dissident leaders have told the United States which opponents of Cuba’s communist government were being jailed or harassed, but they say they were not consulted when the list of prisoners to be freed was drawn up or even told who is on it.
And this lack of information has only fuelled concerns among the dissidents, who fear that the list of these secret prisoners to be released will not be correct and will potentially leave true political prisoners in jail for undetermined sentences.
“We’re concerned because we don’t agree with the silence, because we have a right to know who they are. Who are they?” said Berta Soler to Reuters, leader of the Ladies in White dissident group, which marches in Havana on Sundays to demand the release of prisoners.
“There are not just 53 political prisoners, there are more, and we are concerned that the U.S. list might have common criminals on it,” she told Reuters in Havana.
A U.S. official said on Saturday that Washington had asked Cuba to release a specific group of people jailed on charges related to their political activities, but declined to answer further questions about this according to Reuters.
There has not only been no information on who the political prisoners on the list are, there has also been no information about when the prisoners are going to be released or any other details. All anyone knows is that the magic number is 53.
The dissident Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, keeps track of activists in the different opposition groups and in June they counted a total of 114 political prisoners according to Reuters.
The group’s veteran leader, Elizardo Sanchez, who also spoke with Reuters, says at least 80 peaceful dissidents are on that list, including some whose only crime was to demonstrate or scribble anti-government graffiti.
Others include soldiers who deserted with their weapons, former government officials, people who tried to hijack an airplane to the United States and eight militants jailed for entering Cuba from the United States and trying to start insurrections.