Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lauded President Barack Obama's moves to ease diplomatic strains with Cuba on Wednesday.
PHOTO: Darren McCollester/Getty
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lauded President Barack Obama's moves to ease diplomatic strains with Cuba on Wednesday.

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Hillary Clinton endorsed President Barack Obama's announcement to normalize relations with Cuba

Clinton called the release of U.S. contractor Alan Gross "great news"

(CNN) —  

Hillary Clinton backed President Barack Obama’s historic easing of decades-old sanctions against Cuba on Wednesday and said she is “deeply relieved” by the release of U.S. contractor Alan Gross.

Clinton, who was secretary of state when Gross was arrested in 2009, backed Obama in a statement Wednesday night that was in stark contrast with her Republican counterparts in the field of potential 2016 presidential contenders.

READ: Cuba releases American Alan Gross

“I support President Obama’s decision to change course on Cuba policy, while keeping the focus on our principal objective – supporting the aspirations of the Cuban people for freedom,” Clinton said in a statement.

She called Gross’s release “great news,” and noted that as secretary of state, she pushed for his release, stayed in contact with Gross’s family and “called for a new direction in Cuba.”

“Despite good intentions, our decades-long policy of isolation has only strengthened the Castro regime’s grip on power,” Clinton said.

“As I have said, the best way to bring change to Cuba is to expose its people to the values, information and material comforts of the outside world,” she said. “The goal of increased U.S. engagement in the days and years ahead should be to encourage real and lasting reforms for the Cuban people. And the other nations of the Americas should join us in this effort.”

Her comments largely echo Obama’s remarks. But Republicans, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, called the move to ease the two countries’ diplomatic strain a mistake, saying it would weaken the United States’ negotiating position in pushing for democracy in the communist nation.