Today, after many long years, we welcome the historic steps taken by President Obama on normalizing diplomatic relations with Cuba. The humanitarian release of Alan Gross by the Cuban government along with the release of the three Cuban prisoners, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, and Ramón Labañino, by the Obama administration moves the roadblocks that have held back progress in improving relations between our two countries for far too long.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been working for more than 30 years to help ease the hardships caused by the United States’ economic embargo on Cuba and to end the embargo itself. Recently I have been participating in a series of meetings with government officials both in Cuba and in Washington. Along with the Reverend John L. McCullough, president and chief executive officer of Church World Service; and Rabbi Elhanan “Sunny” Schnitzer, executive director of the Cuba-America Jewish Mission; we emphasized the humanitarian reasons for the release of Alan Gross and the three Cuban prisoners. 

The announcement today by President Obama not only eases the suffering of the family members and friends of these prisoners, but also takes us closer to a day when our two peoples will have no impediments to full and flourishing relations. We rejoice along with the Cuban Council of Churches and the Presbyterian Church of Cuba for the good news that will further the cause of peace and human rights around the world.