The 53 prisoners released by Cuba’s communist government still face restrictions on their movements and political freedoms and could eventually wind up in jail again, according to reports.
The detainees, all imprisoned on political charges, were set free as part of the deal to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba. Dissidents on the island initially said they were kept in the dark about who was on the list to be released.
Now out of prison, many must report to courts regularly as part of their "conditional release." Those on parole are barred from leaving the country. Others say they were urged to refrain from political activities.
Haydee Gallardo, who was released last week along with her husband, told Reuters that she fears he will be imprisoned again. While she has no conditions on her release, a state security officer monitored her husband at a protest for the prominent dissident group Ladies in White last weekend.
"I don't think the repression will stop considering that they continue to keep watch over us," she said. "I'm afraid the repression will result in him getting locked up again."
Cuban authorities conducted short-term arrests of almost 5,000 political dissidents in the first half of 2014, according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation. Rights groups accuse the government of repeatedly detaining dissidents for short periods to avoid scrutiny by international watchdogs that track permanent political prisoners.
"The Government of Cuba, which has entered its 56th year of iron-handed power, continues to criminalize the exercise of all civil and political rights and other fundamental rights," the commission said last year.
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment by press time. A White House spokeswoman referred the Washington Free Beacon to the State Department.
Sens. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Dan Coats (R., Ind.) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Wednesday expressing concerns about the Obama administration’s easing of trade and travel sanctions on Cuba. They noted that current law forbids U.S. assistance to Cuba, and that removing restrictions could harm U.S. finances. The Cuban government previously seized cash from European trading partners with correspondent bank accounts on the island, they said.
"We are deeply concerned that several aspects of President Obama’s new approach to Cuba, especially those related to unilaterally easing U.S. sanctions, violate the letter and spirit of several U.S. laws, and increase the moral and financial risk to the American taxpayer and financial system of doing business through Cuba’s government-controlled financial system," they wrote.