Cuba Releasing 3,522 Prisoners Ahead of Papal Visit

Cuba Releasing 3,522 Prisoners Ahead of Papal VisitCuba Releasing 3,522 Prisoners Ahead of Papal Visit

Cuba announced Friday that it is releasing 3,522 prisoners ahead of next week’s visit by Pope Francis, the third time Cuba has granted inmates freedom before a papal trip.

The Council of State announced in state media Friday that the prisoners to be freed include a mix of women, people younger than 20, inmates suffering from illnesses and people whose terms were coming to an end next year, AP reported.

The government won’t release people convicted of serious crimes like murder, child sexual abuse or violations of state security.

Also excluded from pardon were those convicted of illegally killing government cattle, a crime that often bears heavy punishment in Cuba, which suffers from widespread shortages of milk and meat, particularly beef.

Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the archbishop of Havana, said in an interview on Cuban television last week that he had given the government a list of prisoners for possible pardon ahead of the pope’s Sept. 19-22 visit ahead of a trip to the United States. He said many were being held for economic crimes such as corruption or stealing resources from the state.

The names of the prisoners were published in an order signed by President Raul Castro in the country’s government gazette. The order described the pardons as a “humane and sovereign act.” State media said Friday morning that the prisoners would be released over the following 72 hours.