The actions taken by President Obama today are the effective end of a policy that for nearly 55 years has failed to produce real, democratic change in Cuba. The embargo now exists in name only.

The freeing of Alan Gross and an unnamed US intelligence asset has opened the door for relaxing restrictions on banking, remittances, and travel. This, along with the restoration of diplomatic relations, will move Cuba further down the path of reform. After the review process, Cuba should be expected to be removed from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list, which will open the island to the reform pressures that come with the access this brings to international financial institutions. Engagement is what brings about change and will eventually allow Cubans to one day live in a free society.

The president’s executive orders will reverberate far beyond the 11 million Cubans living on the island. Our influence in the hemisphere and beyond will only be strengthened through a policy change that focuses on engagement.

The US embargo has been the rallying cry for those in Latin America and across the world who scream of hypocrisy. The US deals with rogue nations around the world as we have consistently found that engagement, not isolation, leads to productive dialogue. Cuba is not viewed as rogue by many of our allies. Indeed, it is hosting peace talks to end the 50-year guerrilla war in Colombia with the FARC, and is engaged in trade discussions with the European Union. This is not a democratic society but today puts new pressures on a crumbling regime that can no longer count on the support of its main benefactor, Venezuela. Today, the Cuban people are one step closer to freedom.

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