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February, 1998

The Cuban Government  released between 200 and 300 political prisoners, likely on the behalf of Pope John Paul II.  Cuban Governmental officials deny that the Pope's visit had caused or affected the decision.

The Vatican had presented Cuban President Fidel Castro with a list of 300 names of people they felt were political prisoners.  Over 100 from the list were released, along with many others.

Some prisoners in Cuba are being held for "disrespect for authority" and "disseminating enemy propaganda" as well as for betrayal of the country.

The United States claims as many as 600 political prisoners are still in Cuban jails, but the Cuban Government denies this.

There may be some disagreement over the definition of a political prisoners.  Many classified by the US and several exile groups as "political prisoners" have attempted or carried out violent crimes in Cuba, though not always directly against the government.  Cuba's entire system is also different than that of many countries, so different actions may be judged to be more harmful there than they would be in other countries.

Four well known leaders were released who had criticized the Communist Party.  The Vatican was pleased with the announcement, however many others felt there were still more prisioners who should be freed.

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