POLITICS

Cuba Will Free Dissidents and Allow Them to Stay

Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez, right, shakes hands with Jaime Ortega, archbishop of Havana, Cuba, during his visit, in Madrid on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2010. (AP Photo)

Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez, right, shakes hands with Jaime Ortega, archbishop of Havana, Cuba, during his visit, in Madrid on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2010. (AP Photo)

Cuba will release 11 jailed dissidents to complete a July agreement to free 52 people jailed since a 2003 crackdown – and it may happen before Christmas.

Speaking in Madrid, Havana Archbishop Jaime Ortega said the 11 will be allowed to remain in Cuba but that at least one of them may travel to the U.S.

He did not say exactly when the release would take place. Ortega spoke after meeting 15 former Cuban prisoners now living in Spain.

One of the ex-inmates, Juan Carlos Herrera, said the cleric had told them the final 11 would be released by Dec. 25, but this could not be confirmed.

Cuba agreed in July to release the 52 prisoners, and most of the 41 already freed have moved to Spain.

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All the releases were supposed to be completed by Nov. 8, but the deadline was missed.

Ortega said the former inmates he met in Madrid expressed concern about some of their family members still in Cuba, their own legal status in Spain and their future.

The release deal was negotiated by the church with help from Spain. Ortega flew to Madrid last week to meet with Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jiménez.

Besides the dissidents, Cuba has also recently freed another 11 people jailed for other crimes. They also went to Spain.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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