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Cuba Frees 53 Prisoners Ahead of Historic Talks, Officials Say

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Recently released dissidents Aide Gallardo (L) and Sonia Garro hold the Cuban national flag during a march in Havana January 11, 2015. Cuba has released all 53 prisoners it had promised to free, senior U.S. officials said, a major step toward détente with Washington. The release of the remaining prisoners sets a positive tone for historic talks next week aimed at normalizing relations after decades of hostility, the officials said.
Recently released dissidents Aide Gallardo (L) and Sonia Garro hold the Cuban national flag during a march in Havana January 11, 2015. Cuba has released all 53 prisoners it had promised to free, senior U.S. officials said, a major step toward détente with Washington. The release of the remaining prisoners sets a positive tone for historic talks next week aimed at normalizing relations after decades of hostility, the officials said.Reuters

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Cuba has notified the Obama administration of the release of 53 political prisoners, fulfilling a promise to the United States as the two countries work toward normalizing relations for the first time in half a century, a U.S. official told NBC News on Monday.

The release of the prisoners was a potential obstacle to congressional support for easing economic restrictions on Cuba. The administration has said that progress on human rights is important but not a condition for normalized relations.

Some of the prisoners were jailed for promoting political and social reform in Cuba, a U.S. official said. Senior U.S. officials told Reuters that the White House would provide the names of all 53 to Congress and expects lawmakers to make them public.

Last month, President Barack Obama declared that the American policy of isolating Cuba had failed, and he announced plans to open an embassy in Havana and take other steps toward openness. Only Congress can end the economic embargo.

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