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Castro Offers to Exchange Dissidents for 'Cuban 5'


Cuban President Raul Castro has proposed releasing Cuban political prisoners in exchange for five Cubans jailed in the United States on espionage convictions.

Mr. Castro spoke in Brasilia Thursday, after meeting with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. He told reporters he wants the release of the men, known as the "Cuban Five," who were convicted of spying in 2001 and sentenced in a Miami federal court to long terms in U.S. detention.

The U.S. State Department rejected the proposal, saying the two situations are independent of one another. A spokesperson said the five Cubans imprisoned in the United States had been tried and sentenced for crimes, whereas the Cuban prisoners were jailed simply for protesting peacefully.

Separately, Mr. Castro repeated his government's willingness to discuss the long-standing U.S. embargo against Cuba with U.S. President-elect Barack Obama.

Mr. Obama has said he would be willing to speak with Cuba's leaders but that he would maintain the nearly 50-year-old trade embargo as leverage to push for democratic change on the Communist-led island.

Wednesday, leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean wrapped up a regional summit in Brazil with a call for the U.S. to lift the embargo.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.