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Obama Proposes New Cuba Policy Before Exiles

Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama further elaborated on his “accidental foreign policy” agenda Friday in a speech before the Cuban American National Foundation, the Cuban exile group that historically has been a bastion of hard-line anti-Castro sentiment. In his remarks, Obama called for a “new strategy” towards Cuba and other Latin American nations and contrasted his position with those of the Bush administration and presumptive GOP nominee John McCain:

It’s time for more than tough talk that never yields results. It’s time for a new strategy. There are no better ambassadors for freedom than Cuban Americans. That’s why I will immediately allow unlimited family travel and remittances to the island. It’s time to let Cuban Americans see their mothers and fathers, their sisters and brothers. It’s time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime.

I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice: if you take significant steps toward democracy, beginning with the freeing of all political prisoners, we will take steps to begin normalizing relations. That’s the way to bring about real change in Cuba — through strong, smart and principled diplomacy.

And we know that freedom across our hemisphere must go beyond elections. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez is a democratically elected leader. But we also know that he does not govern democratically. He talks of the people, but his actions just serve his own power. Yet the Bush Administration’s blustery condemnations and clumsy attempts to undermine Chavez have only strengthened his hand.

We’ve heard plenty of talk about democracy from George Bush, but we need steady action. We must put forward a vision of democracy that goes beyond the ballot box. We should increase our support for strong legislatures, independent judiciaries, free press, vibrant civil society, honest police forces, religious freedom, and the rule of law. That is how we can support democracy that is strong and sustainable not just on an election day, but in the day to day lives of the people of the Americas.

Steven Taylor suggests that the risk associated with offending the Cuban-American lobby is lower than in past elections, in part because even the Cuban exile community has realized that the current policy is largely ineffective given the commercial relationships the Cuban regime has developed with most other developed countries since the fall of the Soviet Union, its former patron.

Given the divisions in the Cuba lobby, the (largely symbolic) shift of power from Fidel Castro to his brother Raul, and the likelihood that Florida will not be as pivotal a battleground in 2008 as in past elections, the days of our Cuba policy being dramatically at odds with the opinions of most Americans may be approaching their end, no matter which major party candidate is elected in November.

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About Chris Lawrence
Chris teaches political science at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. He has a Ph.D. in political science (American politics and political methodology) from the University of Mississippi.

Comments

  1. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Let us see. A communist, or at least a communist sympathizer wants to ease relations with a communist country. Go figure. If Obama is not a communist. Why does he hold his communist father in such high esteem? Why are most of his associates sympathetic to communism? Which other major Presidential candidate has allowed Che posters in their campaign headquarters. Let us hope the public in general is able to see past the BS the leftist media is shoveling at us about this man. If this were a Republican making such mistakes, had such a weak background. It would be on every page of every new paper in the land. Every TV channel would broadcast gaffes and mistakes. Obama is unvetted and unqualified.

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  2. Brian K says:

    the days of our Cuba policy being dramatically at odds with the opinions of most Americans may be approaching their end, no matter which major party candidate is elected in November.

    I agree with this.

    Cuba has only been an ideological threat for the last two decades, and nothing more. A shift in the public mind on our policies towards Cuba, and the weakened anti-castro lobby, is a reflection of this.

    Cuba is too irrelevant for this to matter too much. It wouldn’t take much to improve relations that the public could feel good about, but the wrong approach could be disastrous.

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  3. anjin-san says:

    Let us see. A communist, or at least a communist sympathizer wants to ease relations with a communist country.

    It would be interesting indeed, to see what percentage of the things in III’s home were manufactured in Communist China, a nation run by ruthless, brutal communists dictators.

    Why does he purchase items of Chinese origin and thus underwrite their brutal communistic dictatorship? He must be a lover of socialistic life. Does he secretly hate America? It would seem so…

    It is almost laughable that the right is perfectly happy to do business with communist China, a country that presents us with a number of serious national security and economic challenges, yet they wet themselves at the mere mention of Cuba, a nation that is about as much threat to America as an enraged gerbil.

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  4. davod says:

    “It would be interesting indeed, to see what percentage of the things in III’s home were manufactured in Communist China, a nation run by ruthless, brutal communists dictators.”

    China is not parked off the coast of Florida.

    The embargo, while an inconvenience, does not stop the Cubans from enacting change. Cuba’s government has just started to allow its people access to more consumer goods.

    When the government loosens its policies against opposition parties and others who speak out against the government then just maybe the US should consider a change. Then again, a few years ago the Cubans did relax restrictions, only to reenact them as soon as they got what they wanted.

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  5. anjin-san says:

    China is not parked off the coast of Florida.

    So what?

    China has Dong Feng class ballistic missiles, which can hit the US with nuclear weapons. Cuba has AK-47s. China also holds a great deal of our paper, which gives them economic power over us.

    And guess who is footing the bill. Why you are, pal.

    Our Cuba policy is a failure that is half a century old. Time for a change.

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  6. davod says:

    “China has Dong Feng class ballistic missiles, which can hit the US with nuclear weapons.Cuba has AK-47s. China also holds a great deal of our paper, which gives them economic power over us.”

    The Chinese missiles are why we have the Stars Wars Missile Defence shield (We might have had a lot more of it if the Liberal prats in the US had not stopped development).

    Cuba continues to export its political brand throughout the world. Cuba has an extremely effective intelligence agency which operates agents in the USA.

    What do we really know about the offensive weapons capability of Cuba. Until recently, the US top Cuba analyst was a Cuban spy (You know, the one who rebutted John Bolton’s assertions that Cuba had an offensive Chem/Bio facility).

    China holding so much of our debt is a double edged sword. What will they do with it to attack the USA, sell it short?

    I reiterate. The time to change our policy is when the Cuba government stops repressing its population and what would be the political opposition.

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  7. DavidTC says:

    Cuba has an extremely effective intelligence agency which operates agents in the USA.

    As does every country in the world, bub.

    And it’s worth noting that the Cuban intelligence community is, in fact, incredibly small and mainly concentrates on Cuban expats living in Florida. They’re not sneaking into missile silos and stealing NOC lists, they’re basically at the level of private investigators keeping track of Cuban dissents who have escaped to the US. It’s hardly a national security issue.

    There are at least a dozen countries that do special operations within the US, breaking into places and whatnot. Cuban is not one of those countries, they don’t have anywhere near the resources. (Most of those countries are, in fact, our ‘allies’, like France and Israel and the UK and other ‘western’ countries. And Russia. And we do it right back.)

    But, what, exactly, are you worried Cuba is going to do? Will someone please state specifically the actual, real threat that any Cuban action could possibly pose to us? And then state how the embargo helps stop that?

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