Now that we’re friends with Cuba and the entire Western Hemisphere is one giant hippie hug of happiness, you would expect that our administration would be following up on its request to have 53 political prisoners released. After all, that’s the deal we made: we’ll start buying your cigars and staying in your hotels and enriching your proletariat, if you let us have all of those Americans you’ve been holding all these years in Cuban jails.
You, of course, would be making assumptions far beyond your pay grade. You see, the White House assumed that once a deal was announced, Cuba, being the civilized nation that it is, would simply honor the plan. After all, now that the US had made a decision so lauded by global forces, it certainly wasn’t going back on it. Cuba, of course, doesn’t see it that way. Although the State Department is still laboring under the notion that all 53 prisoners have already boarded planes bound for Miami, it seems Congress has heard a different story. And now everyone’s confused.
A White House official on Wednesday denied that the Cuban government was resisting freeing some of the 53 people listed for release as part of a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations on the grounds they had been linked to violence.
The denial followed a report on Wednesday by Reuters citing a congressional aide who said that “we’ve been told that the Cuban government has agreed to release all but several of the political prisoners on the list.”
“This is not true, we have not heard any such thing from the Cubans, we fully expect all 53 to be released,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
The White House has not released the names of the 53 people it requested be released, nor their current statuses, but noted only that “some” of the prisoners had already made their way out of jail. According to the Congressional aide who spoke to Reuters, though, that’s not quite enough: a small group of dissidents among the list given to the Cuban government are considered by the Castros to be “dangerous,” and their release is causing a hiccup in relations, by which I mean that the Cuban government seems intent on ignoring the release requests.
I can’t say I’m shocked, though I’m not sure exactly why the Obama Administration would schedule negotiations before any of the initial demands for normalization have been met. It almost seems like they simply wanted the announcement to serve as a reminder that they’re not completely powerless as they stare down two years as a lame duck administration. But we’ve never known the Obama Administration to take a ridiculous risk in pursuit of public adulation without thinking the process through, have we?
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