WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and former chair of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, today made the following statement regarding President Obama’s announced changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba:

“First and foremost, I am pleased that Alan Gross is home with his family. His release from prison was long overdue.

“President Obama announced several major changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba today. The onus is now on the Cuban government to respond in kind by allowing political pluralism and the opening up of basic freedoms for the Cuban people. This means free and fair elections, respect for the rule of law, an independent press, and upholding the values enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The Cuban government has repressed its people for more than 50 years, and the actions taken by the President today should only be sustained if the Cuban government responds by making fundamental democratic changes on the island.

“While I am pleased that 53 political prisoners are expected to be released, we must continue to insist that each and every individual who is languishing inside a Cuban prison be freed. Cuba’s leaders are not off the hook. While the President has the authority to make the changes that were announced today, Congress has the authority to maintain or eliminate the trade embargo on Cuba. I believe that Congress must see a greater political opening in Cuba before lifting the embargo.”