After a historic deal normalizing relations with the United States, Cuba has finally completed its promise to release 53 political prisoners.
The anticipated release has been eagerly awaited by American officials since mid December, when Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to do so.
The news comes just nine days before Cuban officials are due to meet with their American counterparts to discuss the next steps in diplomatic relations.
“We welcome this very positive development and are pleased that the Cuban government followed through on this commitment,” a senior U.S. administration official said. “Our Interests Section in Havana was able to verify these releases.”
None of the prisoner’s names have been made public, but the White House plans to allow Congress the opportunity to release their names. The prisoners' release was demanded by the U.S. because their arrest violated internationally protected freedoms, according to ABC News.
U.N. ambassador Samantha Power noted that this is just the first step.
"Welcome as that step is, and heartening as it is for their families, (it) does not resolve the larger human rights problems on the island," she said.
Another official agreed, saying that the U.S. will not stop pressuring Cuba to release more prisoners.
"The fact of the matter is there are other individuals whose cases we have raised in the past," the official said. "We have every expectation of going forward in the future. We’re going to be wanting to raise the cases of different individuals who may be detained in Cuba for exercising their universal rights."
After 18 months of negotiation, Cuba and the U.S. were able to agree to this historic deal. Going forward, the U.S. will focus on reopening an embassy in Havana.
New progress between the two countries will hopefully be made on Jan. 21 and 22 when they resume talks.