This is absolutely appalling. Here is what Florida State Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla has to say about this:
Raul Castro is a communist dictator and an enemy of the United States. At a time when so many of our fellow Americans are giving their lives for freedom and liberty on foreign lands, our President has sided with tyranny and human rights violators. While it is great that Alan Gross will be home with his family for the Holidays, it is outrageous that the perpetrators of his illegal incarceration have been rewarded for their illegal and inhumane actions toward Mr. Gross.
The ransom for this innocent hostage has been paid with 3 convicted criminals who were responsible for the deaths of Americans. This administration has negotiated unilaterally with a terrorist nation and its dictator and betrayed every promise it has made to freedom loving Americans.
The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century after the release of an American contractor held in prison for five years, President Obama announced on Wednesday.
In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, who hosted a final meeting at the Vatican, Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the United States and the island nation just 90 miles off the American coast.
“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” Mr. Obama said in a nationally televised statement from the White House. The deal will “begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas” and move beyond a “rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.”
The surprise announcement represented a dramatic turning point in more than five decades of hostility born in the depths of the Cold War and yet frozen in time long after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Once a geopolitical flash point, the Cuba-America relationship has been a thorn in the side of multiple presidents and even now generated fierce criticism from those who equated a diplomatic thaw to appeasement of the hemisphere’s leading dictatorship.
Mr. Obama has long expressed hope of transforming relations with the island nation, an aspiration that remained untenable as long as Cuba held Alan P. Gross, the American government contractor arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison. In agreeing to free him, Cuba cleared the way for Mr. Obama to take a political risk with the last national election of his presidency behind him.
Mr. Gross traveled on an American government plane back to the United States late Wednesday morning, and the United States sent back three Cuban spies who had been in an American prison since 2001. American officials said the Cuban spies were swapped for a United States intelligence agent who had been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years, and said Mr. Gross was not technically part of the swap, but was released separately on “humanitarian grounds.”
In addition, the United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking relations, and Cuba will release 53 Cuban prisoners identified as political prisoners by the United States government. Although the decades-old American embargo on Cuba will remain in place for now, the president called for an “honest and serious debate about lifting” it, which would require an act of Congress.
“These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s time for a new approach.”