Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday the United States
remained firm that the Castro regime should end in Cuba, despite
overtures seeking reform on the communist island.
Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban American and
fierce critic of the Castro brothers, told Clinton during a
congressional hearing that the administration had a double-standard
after using force to remove Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi.
"Our position has been the same for more than 50 years. We think Fidel
Castro should go," Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to be going anywhere."
The United States first partially imposed an embargo on Cuba in 1960,
just after Fidel Castro's revolution. It remains in force, with most
trade and travel banned to the Caribbean island.
After taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama eased restrictions
on travel and remittances by immediate family members. He has said the
United States is ready to change its tough policy if the communist state
is ready to reform.
Castro, 85, formally ceded power in 2006 to his younger brother Raul due
to health reasons but he has continued in a role as elder statesman.
Despite the absence of diplomatic ties, Clinton said that the United
States maintained contacts with Cuban officials on a range of issues
such as drug trafficking but also engaged ordinary people on the island.
"It is our view that we should help those who are trying to work toward
positive change," Clinton said.
She renewed calls for Cuba to free US contractor Alan Gross, who was
arrested in 2009 and sentenced in March to 15 years in prison.
"It is a gross violation of his human rights and a humanitarian abuse
that he has not been returned to his family and we would like to see
that happen as soon as possible," Clinton said.
Gross was arrested as he distributed cellphones and laptops to members
of the island's Jewish community under a State Department contract. Cuba
charged him with violating the island's "independence or territorial