Washington, DC -- In response to this morning’s announcement that Cuban leader Fidel Castro has decided to retire, Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-CA), Acting Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement:

“For far too long, the Cuban people have been denied democratic freedoms, fundamental human rights, and the rule of law. I hope today’s announcement will mark a turning point in their struggle for a better life.

"It is my intention to hold hearings with representatives of the Administration and outside experts to assess the impact of Castro’s retirement and to review U.S. policy toward the island. This development may provide an opportunity for the United States to inject creativity and fresh ideas into that policy to better achieve our common goal of bringing freedom to the people of Cuba.”

Acting Chairman Berman is the author of the “Berman Amendment”, a provision in the 1988 Omnibus Trade Act that prohibits the President from regulating the import or export of informational and cultural materials – such as books, paintings and movies – to Cuba and other nations under U.S. embargo. He has also been a leader in efforts to end restrictions on travel to Cuba.