Cuban President Fidel Castro has agreed to release 348 current and former political prisoners, all jailed at least 10 years, and allow them to immigrate to the United States, the U.S. Catholic Conference said Monday.
The Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio, executive director of the Roman Catholic agency's migration and refugee services, obtained the commitment from Castro in a meeting in Cuba last week, church officials said.
Castro agreed to issue exit permits for 204 people on an updated U.S. Catholic Conference list of political prisoners, officials said.
Follows September Agreement
DiMarzio said Castro told him an additional 144 people still in prison and not on the agency's list will be given permission to leave Cuba. Last September, the Catholic conference and Cuban officials negotiated the relocation of a group of 111 political prisoners and their immediate families.
Church officials said DiMarzio submitted the new offer for assistance because Cuban officials showed interest in receiving an updated list after the September agreement.
The prisoners, former prisoners and immediate family members probably will be transported to the United States in small groups, and the first group probably will not arrive much before Labor Day, Sept. 7, officials said.