Cardinal Ortega and Hope for Future after Announced Release of Political Prisoners


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(08 Jul 10 - RV) The Catholic Church in Cuba has announced the release of 52 political prisoners.

The church said five of the prisoners would be freed late Wednesday and allowed to go to Spain, while the remaining 47 would be released over the next few months and permitted to leave the communist-led Caribbean island, if they choose.

The 52 men are those still in jail from 75 arrested in a 2003 government crackdown against dissidents that damaged Cuba's international standing.

The release was the result of recent dialogue between President Raul Castro and the archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

Cardinal Ortega spoke to reporters after the announcement: "We are at a moment that we have to look to the future with hope. I believe this visit reaffirms the hope with respect to the situation of the prisoners and everything that has to do with the advance of Cuba in the global context."

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos was also in Havana this week to join in the discussions.

The release would be the largest since 1998, when 101 political prisoners were among about 300 inmates freed following a visit by Pope John Paul II.

It will reduce the number of dissidents behind bars to about 100, and moves Cuba closer to eliminating one of the biggest stumbling blocks in its relations with the United States and Europe.