Cuba

Human-rights groups respond to Raúl Castro challenge, release political-prisoner lists

President Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro hold a joint news conference

President Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro take questions from the media during a news conference Monday, March 21, 2016, in Havana.
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President Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro take questions from the media during a news conference Monday, March 21, 2016, in Havana.

During a joint press conference Monday with President Barack, Cuban leader Raúl Castro said there are no political prisoners in Cuba — and challenged a reporter to give him a list of any such prisoners and he would have them released by the end of the day.

Within minutes human-rights organizations and Cuban-American groups that monitor repression in Cuba released lists they say have the names of people serving sentences for political crimes.

Different groups released different lists, in part because it’s difficult to get information about Cuba’s penal system, and in part because there have been short-term detentions and some of the people listed have been released. In some cases the same people have been released and rearrested several times.

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, who has played a key role in negotiations between the U.S. and Cuba in reaching the 2014 accord, said he has “shared many such lists with the Cuban government” since the U.S. began talking with Cuba about renewing ties. Rhodes noted the government had released 53 detainees before the December 2014 announcement.

But he said the issue isn’t that Cuba doesn’t know about the detainees, “it’s their belief that they are not political prisoners.” He said it’s an issue that Cuba's laws or practices punish Cubans from speaking freely against their government.

The Cuban American National Foundation released a list Monday of 47 people says it has verified are current political prisoners:

 
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