- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2014

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham offered praise for President Obama’s announcement of a shift in the United States’ relationship with Cuba after a half-century freeze on diplomatic and economic ties.

“Despite good intentions, our decades-long policy of isolation has only strengthened the Castro regime’s grip on power,” Mrs. Clinton said. “As I have said, the best way to bring change to Cuba is to expose its people to the values, information and material comforts of the outside world.”

“The goal of increased U.S. engagement in the days and years ahead should be to encourage real and lasting reforms for the Cuban people,” she added.

Mrs. Clinton wrote in her most recent book, “Hard Choices,” that one of her regrets as secretary of state was failing to bring back American Alan Gross; she praised his return home Wednesday after five years of imprisonment, which came as part of a swap involving the release of three convicted Cuban spies.

The presumptive front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination wrote that the Cubans had refused to release Mr. Gross unless the U.S. released five of the spies serving time in prison.

“It is possible that the hard-liners within the regime exploited the Gross case as an opportunity to put the brakes on any possible rapprochement with the United States and the domestic reforms that would require,” she wrote. “If so, it is a double tragedy, consigning millions of Cubans to a kind of continued imprisonment as well.”

She also wrote that near the end of her tenure, she recommended that Mr. Obama take another look at the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

“It wasn’t achieving our goals, and it was holding back our broader agenda across Latin America,” she said. “After 20 years of observing and dealing with the U.S.-Cuba relationship, I thought we should shift the onus onto the Castros to explain why they remained undemocratic and abusive.”

Many Republicans, notably Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, blasted the move as serving to legitimize the Castros.

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