Palm Beach Post
Palm Beach Post Editorial
Obama breaks Cuba line
Monday, August 27, 2007
Except for dust-ups over hypothetical crises, the eight Democratic presidential candidates had done little to distinguish themselves from each other on foreign policy until Barack Obama spoke out last week about the Cuba embargo.
The Illinois senator knows 45 years of failed policy when he sees it. Sen. Obama said that if elected, he would end the embargo and lift the Bush administration's travel restrictions on Cuban-American families. He correctly sees the isolation of the Cuban people as detrimental to advancing democracy on the island - "a humanitarian and strategic" mistake that has enabled Fidel Castro to keep his grip on power.
The primary means we have of encouraging positive change in Cuba today," he said, "is to help the Cuban people become less dependent on the Castro regime in fundamental ways."
Usually, expressions of common sense don't merit praise for courage. But politicians from both parties have been so intimidated by the Cuban exile community's hard-liners - and so willing to pander to them - that reasonable policy has become a refreshing departure. No other Democrat in the field has broken with the Bush administration's position, nor is one likely to. Front-runner Hillary Clinton issued a statement in response to Sen. Obama that reiterated her commitment to the status quo.
Forcing the Cuban people to live under duress and separating them from their relatives does nothing to weaken Castro. On the contrary, it allows him to make the United States the scapegoat for his failures and ensures that Cubans will stay powerless to promote change.
On Friday, the latest rumors of Castro's death swept Miami. At some point, of course, the rumors will be true. When they are, the U.S. will be in a better position if our policy is more like Sen. Obama's.
The Capitol Times, Madison, Wisconsin
Ricardo Gonzalez: Obama's on right track to long overdue shift in U.S. policy on Cuba
A letter to the editor — 8/27/2007 10:39 am
Dear Editor: Now that Sen. Barack Obama has broken the ice on Cuba as an issue in the presidential sweepstakes, we are finding out where the candidates stand.
No surprises there. As expected, most are supportive of the status quo -- including Sen. Hillary Clinton, who among Democrats is the most unwilling to change course. Never mind that the present course, adhered to by her husband for eight wasted years, has failed terribly and will never succeed in making Cuba adopt any reforms, let alone choose a different system for development.
To his credit, Rep. Dennis Kucinich has consistently supported ending the embargo and isolation of Cuba. But Kucinich has as good a chance of becoming president as Fidel Castro himself.
Sen. Christopher Dodd has been a longtime advocate of change in U.S.-Cuba policy. Former Sen. John Edwards has never really had a position on Cuba, and Gov. Bill Richardson would return to Clinton 's policy. Sen. Joe Biden joins Hillary in near-total support for the Bush folly.
The Republicans simply continue to pander to the aging Miami exile community instead of learning from their party's master of foreign policy, Richard Nixon, who shortly before his death called for change.
To be sure, Obama did not veer too far from the Bush approach -- he would "grant Cuban-Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send remittances to the island." While that is an important step, what about the right of all Americans to travel freely to Cuba?
A new generation of leaders is waiting in the wings in Cuba. We need to engage those folks in order to prepare for the peaceful evolution in Cuba that will bring about normalization of relations based on mutual respect.
Over many years, in poll after poll, a majority of Americans support lifting the embargo and engaging Cuba. Now even a majority in the Cuban-American community in Florida support this view.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, Cuba served as a springboard for American influence in Latin America. In the 21st century, however, Cuba may very well be the wall that separates both hemispheres.
To tear down this wall we need to work out our differences at the proverbial negotiating table. Doing nothing or blasting the wall with force will not solve any of the issues at hand and would create a host of new ones.
Ricardo Gonzalez, former member of Madison City Council and current president of Madison-Camaguey Sister City Association