Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waded into the heated debate over normalizing relations with Cuba on Thursday, issuing a statement of backing the policy shift and hailing prisoner Alan Gross' safe return to the United States.

“I am deeply relieved by Alan Gross’ safe return to the United States, and 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,” she said Thursday.

While secretary of state, Clinton said she pushed for Gross’s release, staying in touch with his wife Judy and their daughters 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,” she 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.”

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