President Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul, have "destroyed the ability for Cubans today to succeed, prosper and make a life for themselves," he told the nonpartisan Washington institution Tuesday.
"The United States is ready to help the Cuban people peacefully usher in a new era," said Gutierrez, co-chairman of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba.
Despite nearly $1 billion funneled into Cuba by the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, the majority of its residents remain "economic captives" mired in "indentured servitude," he said. Gutierrez said it is "naive" to believe the lifting of U.S. sanctions would force any kind of change in the repressive government.
Instead, he called for a continuation of working directly with citizens of the island by providing emergency food, water, fuel, medical supplies and education. Education is the key to ending the nearly 50 years of oppression under Castro, he said, adding the United States has no military plans to occupy Cuba.