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Through the negotiations of Cuba’s Cardinal Ortega , the Cuban government has just agreed to release 52 political prisoners —about two-thirds of the prisoners known to have been seized in the 2003 government campaign against political opposition.

During John Paul II’s 1998 visit to the island, many commentators suggested that change was coming to Castro’s regime, but Cuba never quite managed to join the march of democracy that toppled dictatorships through the 1990s. Still, this prisoner release—and the open acknowledgment of the Catholic Church as a legitimate independent agent for negotiating the release of even non-religious prisoners—has to be taken as a good sign.

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