Castro Offers Prisoner Swap, Talks With US

Raul promises to free dissidents in exchange for Cuban 5

By Drew Nelles,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 18, 2008 5:45 PM CST

(Newser) – In another sign of a potential thaw in US-Cuban relations, Raul Castro offered today to release five political dissidents if the US frees five Cubans jailed on spy charges. Castro says the prisoner swap could precede talks between himself and Barack Obama, Reuters reports. “Give us back our five heroes," said Castro. "That is a gesture on both parts."

Obama has said he is willing to talk with Castro and has promised to ease travel and remittance restrictions on Cuban-Americans. But he has pledged to keep the embargo in place, something Latin American and Caribbean leaders urged against this week. "There is no more justification for the embargo,” said Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Cuba's President Raul Castro, left, shakes hands with Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at the presidential palace in Brazil.   (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
A Cuban dissident delivers letters congratulating U.S. President-elect Barack Obama after a press conference with journalists in Havana, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008.   (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)
Cuba's minister of communication and commander of the revolution, Ramiro Valdes, left, listens to John Park Wright IV, a Florida cattleman, who holds a Republican sign in support of Barack Obama,   (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)
Cuba's President Raul Castro, attends the summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders in Costa do Sauipe, Brazil, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008.   (AP Photo/Lucio Tavora)
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These prisoners you talk about -- they want us to let them go? They should tell us tomorrow. We'll send them with their families and everything. Give us back our five heroes. - Cuban President Raul Castro

It's not Cuba who has to ask for the end of the embargo. There is no more justification for the embargo. - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

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