Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Castro should go: Clinton

    Castro should go: Clinton

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday the United States
    remained firm that the Castro regime should end in Cuba, despite
    overtures seeking reform on the communist island.

    Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban American and
    fierce critic of the Castro brothers, told Clinton during a
    congressional hearing that the administration had a double-standard
    after using force to remove Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi.

    "Our position has been the same for more than 50 years. We think Fidel
    Castro should go," Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

    "Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to be going anywhere."

    The United States first partially imposed an embargo on Cuba in 1960,
    just after Fidel Castro's revolution. It remains in force, with most
    trade and travel banned to the Caribbean island.

    After taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama eased restrictions
    on travel and remittances by immediate family members. He has said the
    United States is ready to change its tough policy if the communist state
    is ready to reform.

    Castro, 85, formally ceded power in 2006 to his younger brother Raul due
    to health reasons but he has continued in a role as elder statesman.

    Despite the absence of diplomatic ties, Clinton said that the United
    States maintained contacts with Cuban officials on a range of issues
    such as drug trafficking but also engaged ordinary people on the island.

    "It is our view that we should help those who are trying to work toward
    positive change," Clinton said.

    She renewed calls for Cuba to free US contractor Alan Gross, who was
    arrested in 2009 and sentenced in March to 15 years in prison.

    "It is a gross violation of his human rights and a humanitarian abuse
    that he has not been returned to his family and we would like to see
    that happen as soon as possible," Clinton said.

    Gross was arrested as he distributed cellphones and laptops to members
    of the island's Jewish community under a State Department contract. Cuba
    charged him with violating the island's "independence or territorial