In announcing the normalization of relations with Cuba last month, President Obama violated two pledges he had made: to link such a liberalization to “significant steps toward democracy,” including the freeing of all political prisoners; and to consult with Cuban civil society, including pro-democracy activists, on the change.

In what looked at the time like a partial recompense, the White House announced that the Castro regime had agreed to free 53 detainees – or about half the number of political prisoners identified by Cuban human rights activists.

Now it’s becoming clear that Obama chose not to make even that half-step a condition for the broad relaxation of travel and economic restrictions he is granting to Havana along with the normalization of relations. Three weeks after the U.S.-Cuba accord, Cuban human rights activists had reported only five released prisoners. On Thursday, Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez tweeted that the number had risen to 26.

Meanwhile, however, the State Department was emphasizing that steps toward normalization – including the highest-level visit by a U.S. official to Cuba in a half-century – will go forward this month whether the promised prisoner release is completed or not.

Whether the regime fully delivers on its prisoner pledge may never be known. That’s because the Obama administration refuses to release the list of detainees it says it gave to Cuba or to provide its own accounting of how many have been freed. The Castro government has been equally opaque. That’s a familiar response from a totalitarian regime, but the administration’s stonewalling is harder to understand.