- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

MIAMI (AP) - Here is reaction from Florida leaders and Cuban-Americans in the state to the release of American Alan Gross who was imprisoned in Cuba for five years, and the future of US-Cuba diplomatic relations:

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“We hope these monumental steps will contribute to a more full realization of the rights and freedoms of the Cuban people and create tangible avenues for their economic, political, and social engagement…..Today’s announcement promotes an increase in the living standards, connectivity, and autonomy of Cuba’s citizens, but more importantly a hopeful new beginning for our brothers and sisters on the island. Substantial work remains to be done on all sides and on the ground, but we welcome the opportunity to do it, together.”

-Raul Moas, Executive Director of Roots of Hope, a nonprofit that seeks to empower youth in Cuba through technology and other exchanges.

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“Miami-Dade County is home to the majority of Cuban-Americans in the United States who, like me and my family, fled their homeland to escape tyranny. Our community knows all too well the painful history between our two countries. While I welcome the release of Alan Gross and another person, I am deeply disturbed that it appears that in this negotiation we did not secure freedoms for the Cuban people. My condolences go to the families of the four Cuban-Americans who lost their lives on February 24, 1996

-Miami Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez

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“The eventual outcome of this agreement will depend on whether or not the Cuban political prisoners who have been released are not subject to a carousel of re-arrests and harassment as has been the norm, that the acts of repression against the Damas de Blanco and all other non-violent opposition and civil society groups permanently cease, that all Cubans are given unrestricted access to internet and social media and that there is substantial, unreversed, progress in human, economic, civil and political rights for all of the Cuban people…The Castro regime’s record on fulfilling its agreements has been poor at best allowing little expectations as to its will to fulfill its part of the agreement.”

-Jorge Mas, Chairman of the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation

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“Mr. Obama betrayed the Cuban exiles….Castro offered nothing in return. He’s not offering free elections. He’s not offering any party other than communism. What are the Cuban people getting in exchange for this? Today I feel like my second mother, Cuba, has been killed.”

- Luis Morales, 62, a Cuban exile in Miami, who joined a hastily organized protest

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“I’m thrilled. This has been one of the central stories in U.S. Cuba relations for five years now….We’ve gotten over a really big hurdle of getting to the table. And the really exciting stuff happens now. This can be put behind us and we can talk about serious issues, the economics of between the two countries, the free flow of information between the two countries.”

-Daniel Lafuente, 27, entrepreneur and co-founder of the LABMiami.

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“Today’s release of Alan Gross from Cuban prison is long overdue, and I am relieved and pleased for him and his family. However, it is unconscionable for President Obama to hand over spies responsible for the murder of two U.S. citizens, especially since Mr. Gross should have never been incarcerated. Time and time again, the Castro regime has chosen violence and suppression over freedom and democracy, and the Obama administration’s actions of appeasement to dictators diminish the United States’ role of being a beacon for democracy.”

-Florida Gov. Rick Scott

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“As a Cuban-American, I am disappointed by today’s actions from the Obama administration which set a dangerous precedent for rogue nations who know they can take American hostages at will. I am relieved for Alan Gross and his family. However, Cuba has a brutal dictatorship and the Obama administration’s actions only legitimize their oppressive behavior and make it harder for the people of Cuba who are fighting for democracy.”

-Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera

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“It’s clear that President Obama does this when Congress is not in session, he does it after the elections and after, a day after, the Senate ends their session. He also has done so without communicating with any of us who have been involved in this issue for many many years, so I think the president is going to have a difficult time finding support for what is clearly another measure of appeasing an anti-American terrorist dictatorship while receiving frankly, very little, almost nothing in return.”

-U.S. Rep. Mario Diazo-Balart, R-Miami

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“Today, the President has taken major strides to update our Cuba policy so that it better meets the challenges of the 21st century. The changes are well within the President’s authority, and will make it easier to support the Cuban people as they take ownership of their destiny and craft a more democratic and independent future for themselves.”

-Ric Herrero, executive director of the Washington-based nonprofit #CubaNow, which supports exchanges with the island


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