President Obama today confirmed that the US is going to play nice with Cuba after a half-century of frosty relations. "We will end an outdated approach that has failed to advance our interests," said Obama, speaking after Havana released US prisoner Alan Gross. "Neither the American nor the Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born." (Full text of his noon remarks here.) For his part, Cuban leader Raul Castro said in a nationally broadcast speech that while the US and Cuba still have fundamental differences, the countries will deal with them "in a civilized manner," reports the AP. He reiterated, though, that "this does not mean the principal issue has been resolved. The blockade which causes much human and economic damage to our country should cease.”
- Marco Rubio: The move is "absurd and it's part of a long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this administration has established," said the Cuban-American senator, as per the Huffington Post. "This whole new policy is based on an illusion, on a lie, the lie and the illusion that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people."
- Bob Menendez: "President Obama's actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government," said the Democrat from New Jersey, who is the outgoing chair of the Senate Foreign Relations panel. "Let's be clear, this was not a 'humanitarian' act by the Castro regime. It was a swap of convicted spies for an innocent American."
- Chris Van Hollen: The Democratic House member from Maryland, who was on the flight home with Gross, praised the White House for its "vision of a new day in the relationship between the United States and Cuba," reports the Washington Post.
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