The release of Alan Gross from his imprisonment in Cuba is good news, both for humanitarian reasons and because of what his freedom means for possible progress in U.S.-Cuba relations. Shifting public opinion in the United States shows the tide is turning in favor of engagement with Cuba, including in critical constituencies. But Alan Gross’ detention over the past five years has been a major impediment to more normalized U.S.-Cuba relations. Gross’ release can pave the way for a number of steps forward by both governments. Depending on how the United States and Cuba react, this may have important implications for the region as a whole, particularly since Cuba has been invited to participate in the Summit of the Americas in Panama later this spring.
At Brookings, scholars have been closely monitoring the process of economic restructuring underway in Cuba. The process has already produced remarkable transformations in Cuban society, including an emerging middle class and a growing non-state sector that is offering new opportunities for millions, though much remains to be done. Our policy research has examined the obstacles to deeper liberalization in Cuba created by the present policy environment. We have long recommended a number of steps that the Obama administration can take to allow this process to move forward more quickly. We look forward to President Obama’s remarks on U.S.-Cuba relations later today.