Cuba will reportedly free 52 dissidents in what would be the island nation's largest release of political prisoners in over a decade, a gesture welcomed by the Obama administration.
Catholic officials said the planned release of pro-democracy activists arrested in a March 2003 crackdown in Havana was negotiated by Cuba's archbishop, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, and Spanish diplomats, The Washington Post
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in Washington the news was a positive sign, but long overdue. Clinton did not comment on the potential effect on U.S.-Cuba relations, according to The Associated Press
The Cuban government did not immediately confirm the report of the release and human rights activists responded cautiously.
"This is significant, and good news, from the point of view of the prisoners and their families," Elizardo Sanchez, head of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights, told the Post. "But it is a political decision of the Cuban government, taken for short-term political motives, to have an immediate effect overseas, not in Cuba itself."
The AP said it would be the communist-led island's largest release of political prisoners since Pope John Paul II visited there in 1998.