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Cuba releases 53 political prisoners as part of U.S. deal

Cuba released 53 political prisoners as part of last month's historic deal with the U.S. aimed at normalizing relations between the two countries, a U.S. official said Monday.

The official, who was traveling with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the issue on the record. The official said the U.S. has verified the release of the prisoners.

New day for Cuban-American relations

The move came just a week before historic talks between Washington and Havana that will continue an Obama administration effort announced on Dec. 17 to end 50 years of frozen relations with the communist nation.

A senior administration official told CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan the Cuban government made a "sovereign decision to release those individuals as Raul Castro indicated in his December 17 speech."

The prisoners had been on a list of opposition figures whose release was sought as part of the U.S. agreement last month with the Cuban government. An official said they had been cited by various human rights organizations as being imprisoned by the Cuban government for exercising internationally protected freedoms or for their promotion of political and social reforms in Cuba.

The names of the prisoners released have not yet been made public. A U.S. official told Reuters the White House would provide the names of all 53 to Congress, and it expected lawmakers to make them public.

The change in U.S.-Cuba relations was announced the same day Cuba freed American Alan Gross from prison after five years. The U.S. also exchanged three convicted Cuban intelligence officers for an agent who had spied for the U.S. government.