President Obama, in his harshest censure of Cuba's repression of dissent, said Havana had used "a clenched fist'' against "those who dare to give voice to the desires of their fellow Cubans.''
Obama also appeared to hint that his efforts to improve U.S. relations with the Castro government have lost steam in the face of the recent string of tough actions by Havana.
"During the course of the past year, I have taken steps to reach out to the Cuban people and to signal my desire to seek a new era in relations between the governments of the United States and Cuba,'' he said in a four-paragraph statement released by the White House.
The words brought some rare praise from Miami's three Cuban American members of Congress -- Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- who in a joint statement thanked Obama for his "statement in solidarity with the Cuban people and his recognition of the increased repression by the Cuban dictatorship.
"President Obama called for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in Cuba and for the Cuban people’s right to freely determine their future," the three said. "He also noted the tragic death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and the ongoing repression against 'Las Damas de Blanco.' In a moment when the Cuban people are in dire need of support, we express our gratitude to President Obama for this gesture of solidarity. Now more than ever it is time to demand international solidarity and to increase assistance to the brave heroes who struggle for freedom and democracy within Cuba.”