Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Path To Freedom In Cuba

    Path To Freedom In Cuba

    The United States remains committed to helping Cuba find a path to
    freedom, said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere
    Affairs Roberta Jacobson.

    The United States is committed to supporting the Cuban people's desire
    to freely determine their own future. Recently, the United States has
    eased travel restrictions to the island nation and permitted Cuban
    Americans to send remittances to Cuba. This is part of a strategy to
    enhance the free flow of information to, from, and within the island,
    support civil society, and provide Cubans with resources to take
    advantage of opportunities for self-employment and private property,
    reduce their dependence on the Cuban state, and fuel the emergence of a
    market economy that we hope will eventually challenge the dominance of
    Cuba's current ineffective, state-run economic model.

    The United States also recognizes the importance of engaging with the
    pro-democracy and human rights activists who have been working for years
    to expand the political and civil rights of all Cubans. U.S. foreign
    assistance programs in Cuba provide humanitarian assistance to political
    prisoners and their families, support the documentation of human rights
    abuses, and promote the free flow of information.

    In 2010 and 2011, the Cuban government released dozens of political
    prisoners. Unfortunately, their release did not bring about a
    fundamental change in the Cuban government's poor record on human
    rights. The Cuban government has continued to punish political dissent,
    increasingly using repeated, short-term, arbitrary detentions to prevent
    citizens from assembling peacefully and expressing their opinions. It
    continues to limit freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and access
    to information. And it has continued to harass peaceful human rights
    defenders, including the courageous "Ladies in White." The U.S. also
    continues to seek the release of U.S. citizen Alan Gross, an aid worker,
    who has been unjustly imprisoned in Cuba since 2009.

    The U.S. has taken steps to support religious groups in Cuba by
    authorizing U.S. religious organizations to sponsor religious travel,
    and by allowing unlimited remittances, the people of the United States
    are directly supporting the empowerment of Cubans to engage in religious
    activities on the island.

    The message to Cuba and other governments across the hemisphere is clear
    said Assistant Secretary Jacobson: "Exercise of free speech is not
    criminal behavior. To the contrary, free speech is a right that must be
    defended. ... We will be the first to cheer when a democratically chosen
    government in Cuba resumes its full participation in the Inter-American