Wednesday, December 17, 2014 5:09 pm
*US president to end diplomatic isolation of Cuba 50 years after
Ahead of a scheduled official announcement by US President Barack Obama on Cuba, a senior Democratic senator indicated Wednesday Washington will lift its decades-long commercial and travel restrictions on the island.
“Opening the door with Cuba for trade, travel and the exchange of ideas will create a force for positive change in Cuba that more than 50 years of our current policy of exclusion could not achieve,” Senator Dick Durbin, the chamber’s number two Democrat, said in a statement.
Authorities on the communist-ruled island Wednesday freed American Alan Gross, imprisoned since 2009, on humanitarian grounds and at the demand of Washington, a US official said.
Obama is due to speak on the issue at noon (1700 GMT). His Cuban counterpart Raul Castro is set to give an address at the same time.
Durbin’s statement was datelined from Joint Base Andrews and said the senator was “en route to welcome home” Gross, signaling the military airport outside Washington may be where Gross would land in the United States.
Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez expressed disappointment that Obama released three Cubans imprisoned on espionage charges in exchange for Gross’s release.
“Let’s be clear, this was not a ‘humanitarian’ act by the Castro regime,” Menendez said.
“It was a swap of convicted spies for an innocent American.”