With Cuba, A Choice Between Forward And Backward

In Miami, Hillary Clinton will lay out her forward-looking strategy of engagement with Cuba, drawing a sharp comparison with Republican candidates’ efforts to continue failed Cold War policies.

  • Simply put, Republicans refuse to learn the lessons of the past or pay attention to what’s worked and what hasn’t. Why would we continue policies that have accomplished absolutely nothing? Fifty-four years of isolationism has strengthened the Castro regime’s grip on power, not crippled it. It’s time to start empowering the Cuban people, not the Castros.
  • In 2009, the US began relaxing some policies toward Cuba, and we’re already witnessing the benefits. Since then, we’ve seen a boom in Cuban entrepreneurship that validates the power of engagement and direct exposure to American free-market capitalism.
  • As President, Hillary Clinton will continue to use engagement and American leadership to build on this progress. She will take advantage of our enhanced presence to advance our values and interests, engage with those who support change in Cuba, address human rights abuses, and restore our influence in the region.
  • So the choice is clear. We can chart a different path forward in Cuba, betting on American influence to lift up the Cuban people with free-market principles and access. Or we can turn back the progress we’ve made in favor of failed isolationism, and leave both our foreign policy and the Cuban people imprisoned by the past.

Across the spectrum, people are ready for a new chapter in the relationship between the United States and Cuba:

  • According to Pew, 72% of Americans – and 59% of Republicans – support ending the trade embargo with Cuba.
  • According to Univision, among Cuban-Americans, 40% are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports normalization, compared to only 26% who are against it, and an overwhelming majority of Cubans in Cuba support normalization
  • HEADLINE: GOP House member files bill to end U.S. embargo on Cuba [USA Today, 7/28/15]

But Republican presidential candidates continue to support the failed policies of yesterday. Check out how their backwards rhetoric squares with reality:

GOP Rhetoric Reality
Marco Rubio: “Mr. Obama’s new Cuba policy is a victory for oppressive governments the world over and will have real, negative consequences for the American people.” Moving past the inflammatory rhetoric, Marco Rubio has simply got this dead wrong. Normalizing relations with Cuba isn’t a victory for Castro – it’s a threat. The victory for the Castro regime has been five decades of isolationism and embargo that have strengthened their grip of power while giving them a scapegoat for all the island’s woes. Growing and modernizing the Cuban economy will empower its people. And engagement with Cuba benefits Americans as well, through increased trade and opportunities to visit family.
Jeb Bush: “We’re not a step closer to freedom in Cuba because of the actions the president’s taking.” Starting in 2009, the United States set out to make it easier for Cuban Americans to visit Cuba, support private businesses, and send money to family members. Since then, the number of annual visits by Cuban Americans has doubled and the number of Cubans employed by small businesses has surpassed 400,000, demonstrating the benefits and power of engagement. And lifting the embargo fully and ensuring access to 21st century technology would further empower the Cuban people to assert their independence from the Castro regime.
Scott Walker: “There’s a reason why we had the policy in the first place. I haven’t seen solid enough evidence to make me believe there’s been a noticeable change to change the policy this country’s had through administrations in both parties.” Believe it or not, Scott Walker’s assessment of the situation is dead-on – there hasn’t been a noticeable change in Cuba’s policy. That’s exactly the point. There was in fact “a reason we had the policy in the first place” and the reason was because we hoped it would cripple the Castro regime. It has not. It defies logic to continue a policy that’s hurt the Cuban people and been at best, futile, and at worst, counterproductive in respect to its intended goals.
Rick Perry: “‘This is a regime that has been incredibly onerous to the people of Cuba […] I’m not sure you’re ever going to change the culture of Cuba until Castro is dead and gone.” Like Walker (and the majority of the GOP field), Perry wants to continue a policy that he admits has failed – and in his case, he seems to concede that there is no hope for success in the future. The isolation of Cuba has long placed burden on the Cuban people, without anything to show for it. It’s time to lift the embargo, take away the Castro’s excuse for its failures, and engage the people of Cuba with American leadership.
Jeb Bush: “Obama’s rush to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba is wrong.” Rush? We’ve been pursuing the same failed strategy of isolationism toward Cuba for fifty-four years. It’s high time to acknowledge that it hasn’t worked, and move forwar