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.