It’s a familiar trick: When the Castro regime wants something from the international community, it makes a grand show of releasing political prisoners, in hopes of convincing foreign officials that Cuba has liberalized and thus deserves to be rewarded.

As part of the latest diplomatic stunt, Havana plans to exile 52 jailed dissidents. Some of the prisoners have already arrived in Spain, whose government played a key role in brokering their release. Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos has declared that the prisoner release “opens a new era in Cuba,” and he is now pushing for the European Union to normalize relations with the Communist island. 

Let’s hope that EU representatives don’t take his advice. Cuba is effectively engaging in a form of human trafficking: It has turned prisoners of conscience into strategic pawns, whose lives are being used as diplomatic currency to buy concessions for a brutal dictatorship. While the liberation of jailed Cuban dissidents represents a victory for freedom, it is only a partial victory. After all, the dissidents are being forced into exile overseas. They are not allowed to continue their previous activities in Cuba. If the island really were entering “a new era,” as Moratinos claimed, all 52 would be free to remain in Cuba. 

I cannot put it any better than Julio César Gálvez, one of the liberated prisoners now living in Spain, who told the Associated Press, “Our departure (from Cuba) should not be seen as a gesture of goodwill but rather as a desperate measure by a regime urgently seeking to gain any kind of credit.”

Jaime Daremblum, who served as Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2004, is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.