MIAMI -- Three people who spent as many as 25 years in Cuban prisons flew to the United States on a chartered plane while a leaky fishing boat carrying 13 Cuban refugees pulled into a Key West dock as it ran out of fuel.
The three Cuban inmates are the first of 61 ex-prisoners expected to be allowed to leave the communist-controlled island in coming weeks.
One of them, Adolfo Fulgencio Vinent, 50, said his arrival in Miami was "like coming out of an inferno and arriving in paradise."
Vinent was released in November after serving 25 years of a 30-year sentence. The other former prisoners are Felipe Hernandez Cruz, 49, who served 11 years, and Julio Duarte, 69, who served 25.
Cuba has allowed more than 100 former political prisoners to leave.
The 30-foot motorboat that brought the other Cubans to Florida arrived at a shrimp packers' dock. The passengers, ranging in age from 17 to 57, were healthy but hungry after a 14-hour journey.
In most cases, Cuban refugees arriving in South Florida are turned over to family members or sponsors in Miami's large Cuban-American community after questioning by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.