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
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)
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(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.