Image: Barack Obama
Pablo Martinez Monsivais  /  AP
President Barack Obama walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Thursday.
updated 6/25/2009 5:16:22 PM ET 2009-06-25T21:16:22

President Barack Obama praised five Cuban dissidents for their pro-democracy activities Thursday, and called on the communist government to release all political prisoners.

The Cubans were recognized by the National Endowment for Democracy for their work.

Three of the award recipients — Librado Linares Garcia, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, and Ivan Hernandez Carrillo — are in Cuban prisons. In a statement, Obama said he hoped they would "be unconditionally released and allowed to fully participate in a democratic future in Cuba."

The Obama administration has lifted restrictions on money transfers and travel to the island by Americans with family there and are resuming long-stalled immigration and postal service talks.

Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, who was honored along with his wife, Iris Tamara Perez Aguilera, said he generally supports Obama, but not his administration's policies toward Cuba.

"These types of gestures toward a dictatorship, without insisting on any reciprocity, seems to me a bit of a sterile approach," he said.

Garcia Perez said he favors a firmer stance taken by former President George W. Bush.

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