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Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s announcement of changes in U.S.-Cuba relations and the release of Alan Gross:

“For more than five years, Alan Gross, a humanitarian worker, was wrongly imprisoned by the Castro regime.  He should have been unconditionally released a long time ago.  Period.  Instead, a disturbing pattern is emerging where the Obama Administration is willing to negotiate the release of spies or terrorists.  I fail to see how this trend will improve the long-term security of the United States and its citizens.

“The President outlined today numerous changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba, intended to bolster civil-society and Cuban access to information.  It’s ironic that’s exactly what Alan Gross was imprisoned for.

“It is still unclear what steps the Cuban government is taking in return for this change in U.S. policy.  It doesn’t look like much.  The President compared our economic relationship with Cuba to that of China and Vietnam.  But in China and Vietnam, while Communist, at least foreign firms can hire and recruit staff directly, without their pay going to and bolstering the government, as it does in Cuba.

“In this respect, Cuba is more like North Korea than it is China.  For your Cuban worker at the foreign-owned resort, they only receive a fraction of their salary – as little as 5 percent.  Castro or Kim, the method is the same – extract hard currency from the outside, invest in the security apparatus, and make zero changes at home.  Ordinary Cubans will not be economically or politically empowered unless Cuba’s economic system changes; until President Obama’s announcement today, the United States had been demanding this change.

“I am very troubled by the lack of engagement with Congress on this serious policy shift.”