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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.


— Andrea Mitchell