Statements by Eric Hershberg and William LeoGrande on Release of Alan Gross – UPDATED

Havana, Cuba
December 17, 2014, 12:30 p.m.

President Obama’s statement pledging to move forward expeditiously toward full normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba constitutes a welcome and long overdue reversal of policies that have long worked to the detriment of both countries.  Initial steps carried out today, including a prisoner exchange and the release of government contractor Alan Gross, imprisoned in Cuba five years ago for clandestinely distributing high technology communications equipment in Cuba under a USAID program intended to destabilize the Cuban government, mark the beginning of a process that must move forward rapidly during the weeks and months ahead. Pledges to re-open embassies in both countries and to curtail restrictions associated with the half century-old U.S. embargo portend an accelerated process which can be facilitated by prompt Congressional action to abolish provisions of the embargo that were codified into law by the Helms-Burton Act.  In the meantime, the administration can take numerous actions unilaterally, as noted today by the White House.  It must remove Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, lift licensing restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens, abolish constraints on U.S. investment in Cuban private enterprises and cooperatives, and cease covert USAID programs aimed at destabilizing the Cuban political system. Washington should also signal its commitment not to block Cuba’s engagement with international financial institutions, which Cuba may wish to engage to facilitate the success of the country’s ongoing economic reforms. Today’s announcements from the White House mark a fresh start for bilateral relations, which will benefit the peoples of the United States and Cuba alike, and they afford an opportunity for the United States to make good on its stated commitment to open a new era of equal partnership and mutual respect in its relations with all countries of Latin America.

Eric Hershberg

This is a historic development in US-Cuban relations, and hopefully a step toward full normalization of relations. Obama’s actions represent the most positive actions to improve relations since President Carter. This will assure that the Summit of the Americas will be a success and this move will be applauded by governments throughout Latin America and beyond.

William LeoGrande

About the American University-Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) Cuba Initiative:

CLALS is proud of the contributions of all schools at American University and of our research fellows in promoting normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba.  Faculty at each and every one of AU’s Schools and Colleges as well as its Center for Latin American & Latino Studies have published countless books, articles, op-ed pieces, and blogposts shedding light on the relationship and demonstrating the U.S. national interest in better relations with Cuba.  AU experts have worked tirelessly to underscore the costs of Washington’s anachronistic policies toward Cuba; inform journalists and policy-makers of opportunities for normalizing relations; lead path-breaking student and faculty exchange programs linking the university with counterpart institutions in Cuba; and participated in dozens of high level dialogues connecting leading Cuban researchers and policy advisors with AU faculty and foreign policy experts from the United States.

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1 Comment

  1. Gustavo Coronel

     /  December 17, 2014

    Your requests are totally disproportionate to the nature of the event, which is – as you say at the outset – an exchange of prisoners. Cuba remains a cruel dictatorship, a nest of repression and a bad influence on democratic governments in the hemisphere. Better relations with the Cuban people do not mean better relations with the Castro regime, this would make no sense.


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