Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Obama urges ‘meaningful actions’ from Cuba on rights

    Obama urges 'meaningful actions' from Cuba on rights
    Mon Mar 21, 7:00 pm ET

    SANTIAGO (AFP) – US President Barack Obama on Monday urged Cuba to
    extend greater freedoms to its citizens, in a sweeping speech on Latin
    America delivered in Santiago, Chile.

    "Cuban authorities must take meaningful actions to respect the basic
    rights of the Cuban people — not because the insists on
    it, but because the people of Cuba deserve it," Obama said in an address
    here on the second leg of a Latin America tour.

    Obama said the United States had taken measures to improved the long
    strained relations between and Washington, including relaxing
    some decades-old economic sanctions.

    "We've made it possible for Cuban-Americans to visit and support their
    families in Cuba. We're allowing Americans to send remittances that
    bring some economic hope for people across Cuba, as well as more
    independence from Cuban authorities," he said.

    "Going forward, we'll continue to seek ways to increase the independence
    of the Cuban people, who are entitled to the same and liberty as
    everyone else in this hemisphere," said Obama during the second stop of
    Latin America swing that started in Brazil and is to wrap up this week
    with a stop in El Salvador.
    [ For complete coverage of politics and policy, go to Yahoo! Politics ]

    The speech comes with US-Cuba relations under strain after the trial and
    conviction this month of a US State Department contractor on subversion

    American Alan was sentenced to 15 years in on the communist
    island for allegedly committing "acts against the independence and
    territorial integrity of the state."

    He was working under contract for the US State Department when he was
    in late 2009 for distributing cell phones and computers to
    members of the island's struggling Jewish community, a verdict that
    Washington has decried as "an injustice."

    Meanwhile, Havana is in the process of releasing the last few of a group
    of 75 political prisoners detained in a vast 2003 crackdown on political
    prisoners, in a deal reached with the help of the Spanish government and
    the representatives from the Catholic Church here.