The U.S. says Cuba has released 53 political prisoners as part of its deal to start normalizing diplomatic relations.
But Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who is mulling a presidential run that would presumably play up his interest in foreign policy, wants President Barack Obama's administration to provide more detail about how those prisoners were chosen.
Rubio sent Obama a letter Tuesday posing a series of questions that suggest the Cuban government may have given up relatively little in the arrangement. Some of the prisoners, Rubio notes, have been released on probation or with other conditions infringing on their freedom.
"Cuban activists report that many of the people on the list had already been released months prior to your announcement on December 17, in one case, more than a year earlier," the senator wrote. "Others had already served the bulk of their sentences and were already due to be released. One political prisoner was released and then subsequently re-arrested and beaten and then released again.
"Human rights groups also report that many of those released have been done so conditionally with charges still pending against them, released on probation, released with the threat of being imprisoned again if they resume their efforts in support of freedom for the Cuban people, or released with prohibitions on being able to leave the country."
Last week, Rubio wrote the president urging him to call off talks in Havana later this month until the prisoners were released.
The letters are aimed more at Rubio's South Florida constituency of hardline supporters of the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba -- and to the public at large taking a close look at the still-young deal -- rather than just at the president himself. Rubio's office has circulated them to reporters in news releases.
But it's pressure from members of Congress -- though not always from presidential hopefuls -- that sometimes forces government agencies to release information. On Monday, for example, the names of the 53 prisoners surfaced after a list was provided to congressional leaders. It wasn't until later that an administration spokeswoman confirmed the information.