Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement on Wednesday evening expressing her “support” for the major shift in US policy towards Cuba that President Barack Obama announced earlier in the day.
Clinton, who is widely considered the Democratic frontrunner in the 2016 presidential elections, echoed Obama’s claim the shift will help improve human rights and free expression for Cubans living under the Communist government started by Fidel Castro.
“Despite good intentions, our decades-long policy of isolation has only strengthened the Castro regime’s grip on power. As I have said, the best way to bring change to Cuba is to expose its people to the values, information, and material comforts of the outside world,” Clinton said. “The goal of increased U.S. engagement in the days and years ahead should be to encourage real and lasting reforms for the Cuban people. And the other nations of the Americas should join us in this effort.”
Relations between America and Cuba began to deteriorate following the revolution that brought Castro to power in 1959. The US subsequently began an embargo against Cuba and cut diplomatic ties. Obama’s policy shift will include the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries as well as an easing of travel and commercial restrictions.
Along with articulating her support for the deal, Clinton praised the prisoner swap that precipitated the policy shift.
That exchange saw the release of an unnamed US intelligence asset and Alan Gross, an American aid worker who was imprisoned in Cuba in 2009 for allegedly importing banned technology into the country in an effort to set up a secret internet network for Cuban Jews. The US freed three Cuban intelligence agents who were arrested in Florida in 1998.
“I am deeply relieved by Alan Gross’s safe return to the United States and I support President Obama’s decision to change course on Cuba policy, while keeping the focus on our principal objective — supporting the aspirations of the Cuban people for freedom,” said Clinton. “It is great news that Alan is finally home with his family, where he belongs.”
Clinton also said she worked to secure Gross’ freedom during her tenure as secretary of state.
“As Secretary of State, I pushed for his release, stayed in touch with Alan’s wife Judy and their daughters, and called for a new direction in Cuba,” she said.
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