Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    From Discontent to Joy in Twenty-four Hours

    From Discontent to Joy in Twenty-four Hours / Cubanet, Miriam Leiva
    Posted on December 20, 2014

    Cubanet, Miriam Leiva, HAVANA, 18 December 2014 — President Barack Obama
    announced a new direction in US policy toward Cuba, on December 17. The
    Cuban population has expressed great joy at the news, both within the
    archipelago and abroad. It is a brave and historic decision, because it
    provides the opportunity to finally eradicate the existing environment
    of confrontation of almost 55 years and initiate fruitful relations to
    benefit of the Cuban people. The measures taken by the US president have
    been greeted with enthusiasm and hope by millions, although other Cubans
    remain cautious, because they commonly face harsh living conditions and

    President Raul Castro announced he was open to extensive negotiations
    with the United States, on all subjects, in a televised appearance
    coincident with that of President Barack Obama. The reasons to promote
    the rapprochement with Washington may be very extensive, including the
    deepening of the Cuban economic crisis, the need for foreign investment
    for recapitalization and development, social discontent over the
    socio-economic deprivation, loss of public confidence, and the need to
    improve Cuban’s international image. To achieve freedom and democracy,
    civil society will have to traverse the long and difficult path imposed
    by a totalitarian regime that seeks to prolong itself through its heirs.

    The exchange of Alan Gross, imprisoned in Cuba in 2009, for 3 prisoners
    sentenced as spies in the United States, was a necessary condition for
    the US government to be able to initiate the process of normalization of
    relations and to achieve results with new measures directed toward the
    Cuban people. In addition, the island government agreed to release an
    American citizen after some 20 years, and 53 other political prisoners.
    The tradition of the American government is to not abandon any of its
    citizens, and to provide for their exchange or rescue with military action.

    The efforts of lawmakers from both parties, the diplomacy, and members
    from all sectors of American society have had an important role in these
    developments. Pope Francis has once again demonstrated his wisdom, aided
    by nuncios accredited in Havana, and the Cuban Catholic Church, headed
    by Cardinal Ortega and the Conference of Cuban Catholic Bishops who have
    continued to accompany the nation and the people with their traditional
    patriotic and religious vocation.

    The measures announced include initiation of talks to restore diplomatic
    relations; regulatory reform to empower the Cuban people with more
    efficiency; favoring the expansion of general permits for travel to Cuba
    and increases in the amount of remittances; expanded authorizations for
    commercial sales and exports of certain goods and services from the US;
    authorization for persons living in the United States to import
    additional goods to Cuba; facilitating financial transactions between
    the two countries; initiating new efforts to increase access to
    communications in Cuba and people’s ability to communicate freely;
    updating the application of sanctions on Cuba in third countries;
    establishment of negotiations with the governments of Cuba and Mexico to
    discuss the unresolved maritime boundary in the Gulf of Mexico;
    beginning of the process of reviewing Cuba’s as a state sponsor of
    terrorism; discussion of the participation of Cuba in the Summit of the
    Americas in April 2015; a firm commitment to democracy, human rights and
    civil society, including strong support for improving human rights
    conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba (a summary of an extensive
    Fact Sheet issued by the Office of the White House Press Secretary).

    Source: From Discontent to Joy in Twenty-four Hours / Cubanet, Miriam
    Leiva | Translating Cuba –