Monday, December 31, 2007

Cuba as a National Issue

“The right to know, to converse with others, to consult with them, to observe social, physical, political, and other phenomena abroad as well as at home gives meaning and substance to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”
--Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

A Gallup Poll in December 2006 showed that 67% of Americans believe that we should be free to travel to Cuba and that the US should normalize relations.

Yet the issue of US-Cuba relations has been absent from Presidential campaign discussion with the notable exception of two niche events, Univision’s Spanish language debates and the December 1st Brown and Black Forum in Des Moines.

During a campaign in which “change” and the US role in the world play a prominent role, Cuba should be attracting more attention as a symbol both of America’s international isolation and of the control of foreign policy by special interest groups and Washington insiders.

At least as much as Iraq, the unilateralism of the US embargo of Cuba and the Bush Administration’s interventionist obsession with regime change, have puzzled and angered our own Hemisphere and long time international allies. For sixteen years, the UN General Assembly has condemned US policy, most recently by a record setting 184 to 4. (Our only significant ally, Israel, votes with us but does not prevent its own people from traveling and doing substantial business in Cuba.)

Big differences do exist among the candidates about Cuba and the issue has occasionally been a flash point.

Except for Ron Paul, the Republicans vie with each other to take a harder line than President Bush. At stake are 10% of Republican primary votes cast by Cuban Americans in Florida.

When Mike Huckabee’s opposition to the embargo as Governor of rice exporting Arkansas was outed by a Fred Thompson campaign press release, Huckabee did a complete flip-flop within 24 hours, and received the endorsement of one of the most intransigent Cuban American leaders, the speaker of the Florida House.

(Thompson does not let his anti-Castro polemics interfere with embargo violating possession and consumption of Cuban cigars, as reported by the conservative Weekly Standard.)

On the Democratic side, the picture is more complicated, as brought out during the Brown and Black Forum in Des Moines.

Before he withdrew, Chris Dodd, as befits the chair of the Senate’s Western Hemisphere subcommittee (and a former Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic), was the only candidate to make a comprehensive policy statement on Cuba, calling for the end of the embargo, all travel restrictions, and the privileged status of illegal Cuban immigrants. Dennis Kucinich agrees on ending the embargo on trade and travel.

Barack Obama supports unrestricted family reunion travel and remittances for Cuban Americans(as did Bill Richardson). Obama deserves great credit for breaking with misleading stereotypes of the Cuba issue by publishing an Op Ed in the Miami Herald in August and following up to an enthusiastic audience in Little Havana. John Edwards favors family travel but not remittances.

Only about a third of Florida’s Cuban Americans are Democrats, but most of them are angry at the restrictive family travel policy of the Bush administration.

During the Forum, Obama reiterated that he saw family travel as a first step that, “would send a signal that we can build on once Castro is out of power.”

Candidates have not been asked about their position on the civil liberties issue of whether all Americans simply should have the same right to travel to Cuba as they do to every other country in the world. Nor have they been pressed on what they think of Bill Clinton’s policy of allowing non-tourist people to people travel by students, professionals, world affairs councils, religious and humanitarian organizations, sports teams, cultural groups, etc. Cuba’s ongoing transition makes it especially timely to renew such channels for informal “track two” contact.

Although Hillary Clinton has not been overtly challenged for her position on Cuba, she is the outlier among the Democrats. Her stance ironically is closer to the policy of Bush rather than that of her husband. She supports the current administration’s harsh move in 2004 to limit remittances to a narrow definition of family and to reduce Cuban American visits from annual, plus emergencies, to one visit every three years.

During the Brown and Black Forum, Clinton also echoed Bush’s belief that, “when Fidel Castro finally does pass on, there will be a tremendous pent up desire on the part of the Cuban people for freedom and for democracy.” This sentiment is common among the old guard in Miami, but not supported by first hand accounts in Cuba by journalists and diplomatic observers.

Clinton’s position is out of sync with the opinion of most Democrats. However, absent the kind of active pressure from potential caucus goers and primary voters that she gets on Iraq and Iran, Clinton reflects the inertia and conventional wisdom of inside-the-beltway foreign policy advisers. Her campaign staff may also have made a political judgment last spring that she had less need for liberal Cuban American voters in the Florida Democratic primary than for their more conservative brethren in the November election.

Clinton has more direct ties than any other Democratic candidate to the Cuban American community. Within days of her public embrace of the Bush policy last June, it was announced that New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez had signed on as National Co-chair of her campaign. Menendez is progressive on every issue but Cuba and a prodigious fund raiser in Miami. In addition her sister-in-law, Maria Victoria Arias, is a well-connected Cuban American who actively opposed US-Cuba normalization within Bill Clinton’s administration.

Nevertheless, neither Clinton nor the other Democrats echo the Republican in simplemindedly equating Fidel and Raul Castro. Nor, however, do they acknowledge the broad gauged debate over economic and social reform that has distinguished Raul’s tenure as acting head of state.

The test will come if Fidel Castro passes away or officially retires during the campaign. Will the Democratic candidates follow Bush and say there is no reason to change US policy? Or will they recognize a new page has been turned and declare that as President they will allow Americans to freely travel and sell agricultural products and will begin serious negotiations to resolve obstacles to normal diplomatic, economic and cultural relations?

--John McAuliff
The author is executive director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development in New York

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Questions for Presidential Candidates

To Hillary Clinton:

Why do you support President Bush's post 2004 policy on travel rather than that of the Clinton Administration?

[Bush post 2004--Cuban Americans limited to one trip every three years, virtually no licenses for non-tourist purposeful travel;
Clinton-- annual plus flexibility for emergency visits by Cuban Americans; liberal licensing for short term student programs and for professional, religious, cultural and people to people exchanges]

To John Edwards and Barrack Obama:

I applaud your support for unrestricted Cuban American family reunions, but have noticed you do not address the kind of travel by other Americans that was permitted by the Clinton Administration. As President would you also immediately authorize a general license for non-tourist purposeful travel sponsored by not-for-profit organizations (short term student programs; cultural, professional and people-to-people exchanges)?

To Representatives Kucinich and Paul:

I applaud your support for the end of travel restrictions and the embargo of Cuba if you become President. What will you do in the coming session of Congress to at least return us to the travel policies of Presidents Clinton and even of President Bush prior to the 2004 election?

Broader questions for any candidate:

Is travel one of the Constitutional rights that needs to be redeemed from politics and fear-mongering?

If you are campaigning as an agent of change, shouldn't you be addressing the need to change an outdated and unproductive US foreign policy which is opposed by two-thirds of Americans and virtually every other country in the world?

How can the goal of restoring US international standing be achieved when our hostile policy towards Cuba is strongly opposed by the rest of the Western Hemisphere and virtually every other country in the world?

Which is more important, the desire of two-thirds of Americans to have normal relations and travel with Cuba or the views of a hard line minority of exiles in Florida?

Would your approach to Cuba continue the regime change strategy of the Bush Administration or treat Cuba like Vietnam, China, Saudi Arabia, Libya and other countries with which the US has normal but critical diplomatic and trade relations?

Or, if you can't ask a question, print out and distribute the Voter Pledge on Cuba at the event, and present a copy to the candidate signed by you or a group.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Huckabee Flip Flops,1,96861.story?ctrack=1&cset=true
From the Los Angeles Times

Huckabee does a flip-flop on Cuba

The GOP candidate now supports a trade embargo against the island nation, a stance sure to satisfy hard-line Cuban exiles.
By Peter Wallsten
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

December 11, 2007

MIAMI — As governor of Arkansas five years ago, Mike Huckabee joined a bipartisan chorus of politicians who concluded that the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba was bad for businesses. Now that he's a top-tier candidate for president, Huckabee has decided he favors the embargo -- so much so that he vowed Monday to outdo even President Bush in strangling the regime of Cuban President Fidel Castro and punishing those who do business there.

It was a change of heart sure to please hard-liners among the Cuban exiles who could make up 10% or more of the electorate in Florida's crucial Jan. 29 Republican primary. But it also reflected the latest move by a once-obscure candidate now grappling with how to transform a burst of momentum into a sustainable bid for the White House.

Huckabee's Cuba flip-flop comes just days after he released a new, hard-line plan on illegal immigration described as "radical" by some of the same immigrant-rights advocates who once lauded him for more liberal views. As governor, Huckabee supported in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants and stood up for illegal workers caught in a raid of a meatpacking plant. Now he wants all illegal immigrants to return to their native countries within 120 days.

Huckabee all but acknowledged the political expediency of his shifting views as he stood Monday in a Cuban restaurant in Miami and explained why he wrote a letter to Bush in 2002 describing how the Cuba trade embargo was hurting Arkansas rice growers.

"Rather than seeing it as some huge change, I would call it, rather, the simple reality that I'm running for president of the United States, not for reelection as governor of Arkansas," he said. "I've got to look at this as an issue that touches the whole country."

Huckabee has rocketed to the front of the GOP pack by emphasizing his roots as a plain-spoken Southern Baptist preacher with staunchly conservative views. A CNN survey released Monday puts him in a statistical tie nationally with GOP front-runner Rudolph W. Giuliani.

But Huckabee's evolving views on certain issues are giving his rivals for the Republican nomination ammunition as they try to halt his rise.

On Monday in Miami, former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee criticized Huckabee for changing his stance on Cuba "on a dime to appeal to a particular group of people right before an election," according to the Associated Press.

The night before -- when the GOP candidates jockeyed to appear toughest on Castro during a debate on the Spanish-language network Univision -- Thompson's campaign gave reporters quotes from Huckabee's 2002 letter. Thompson had hoped to win support from the social conservatives flocking to Huckabee.

Huckabee on Monday won an endorsement from Marco Rubio, Florida's Cuban American state House speaker, handing the upstart candidate instant cachet in a community that some of his rivals have been courting for years. He said his decision was based largely on Huckabee's new views on Cuba.

Rubio, who has been wooed by all the major GOP candidates, said he decided to back Huckabee after searching for "someone that will fight for what they truly believe in the depths of their heart."

The letter Huckabee wrote in 2002 reportedly argued that the embargo "continues to harm our own agricultural and business interests here at home and has certainly not helped the people of Cuba."

His views on Monday were equally firm in the opposite direction, as he vowed, if elected president, to veto any effort to end the sanctions.

Huckabee pledged to adhere to provisions of a 1996 law that would permit U.S. citizens to sue in American courts for property taken from them during the 1959 Cuban revolution.

Those lawsuits could threaten European businesses with holdings on the island. Bush and President Clinton have routinely avoided conflict on the issue by suspending those provisions of the 1996 law.

"I really wasn't that aware of a lot of the issues that exist between Cuba and the United States," Huckabee said Monday, adding that his flexibility on policy should be viewed as a good thing.

"I'll be the first to tell you I'm always subject -- and I hope we all are -- to learning, to growing, and never being so stubborn and maybe bull-headed," he said.

Huckabee appears to be applying that same approach to his views on immigration, another issue that is important to conservative voters in early GOP contests and an area where he is being attacked by his opponents.

Like former New York Mayor Giuliani, Huckabee has long been viewed with admiration among advocates for immigrants. He supported legislation two years ago in Arkansas that would have given in-state tuition to certain children of illegal immigrants.

And two years ago he reacted with outrage after federal agents raided an Arkadelphia, Ark., poultry plant and arrested and deported many Mexican workers. Huckabee was incensed that federal authorities had separated many parents from their children, and he called for a White House investigation.

"Our first priority should be to secure our borders. I'm less threatened by people who cross the line to make beds, pick tomatoes, or pluck chickens as I am by people like those in Canada making 3-ton bombs," he said in an e-mail to The Times last year. "While we should certainly enforce the law, we need to prioritize." He called in the e-mail for a "process that avoids amnesty, but does provide a path for workers to become legal by paying a fine, getting in the back of the line to register."

But Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, an immigrant rights group, said he was stunned last week when Huckabee released a new plan calling for all illegal workers to register with federal authorities and return to their native countries within 120 days.

Those who did would face no penalty under Huckabee's plan if they later applied to immigrate to or visit the United States. Those who did not return home would be barred, when caught, from future reentry to the United States for 10 years.

"To me, it's like night and day," Sharry said. "One day he's saying children of [illegal] immigrants should go to college, and the next day he's saying there should be mass expulsion."

Huckabee on Monday said his anger over the Arkadelphia raid stemmed from the fact that local authorities were not told in advance so they could make preparations for the children who were left alone when their parents were arrested and deported. Often, illegal workers have children who were born on U.S. soil and are therefore citizens.

He said raiding a business employing "vast amounts" of illegal workers was a "legitimate thing to do" as long as local officials knew in advance.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Huckabee Statements as Governor Against Embargo

The following was distributed by the Fred Thompson campaign. See below re Thompson's hypocrisy.

Contact: Press Office, 571-730-1010;

MEDIA ADVISORY, Dec. 9 /Standard Newswire/ -- In 2002, Governor Huckabee strongly advocated lifting the embargo against Cuba saying it "harm[s] our own agricultural and business interests," "has not helped the people of Cuba" and has "provided Castro with a convenient excuse for his own failed system of government."

"All four House members, both senators and Governor Huckabee strongly support doing away with the trade embargo." (Kevin Freking, "Legislators Call For Ending Ban On Cuba," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 3/22/02)

"'The United States' policy of unilateral embargo against Cuba continues to harm our own agricultural and business interests here at home and has certainly not helped the people of Cuba,' Huckabee wrote in his Feb. 14 letter [to President Bush]. It's not right to continue to make American farmers bear the burden of a policy that hasn't worked, he said. Huckabee cited a study by Texas A&M University reporting that the embargo hurt Arkansas more than other states, costing Arkansas lost farm exports of $ 167 million a year and a loss of almost 4,000 jobs." (Michael Wickline, "End of Cuban Trade Embargo Benefits Children, Snyder Says," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 3/29/02)

"In a letter to President Bush, Mr. Huckabee wrote, 'U.S. policy on Cuba has not accomplished its stated goal of toppling the Castro regime and instead has provided Castro with a convenient excuse for his own failed system of government.'" (Letters, "Time To End Embargo Against Cuba," Washington Times, 2/27/02)

"Huckabee, the GOP governor of Arkansas, wrote to President Bush seeking action against the embargo." (Jeffrey Birnbaum, "Business to Bush: Let Us Into Cuba!", Fortune, 5/27/02)


[Fred] Thompson's work space looks just like what the home office of a successful politician or CEO should look like--though a little messier: a large desk, dark wood, leather furniture, lots of books and magazines and newspapers, a flat-screen TV, and box upon box of cigars--Montecristos from Havana.

The presence of the cigars and the absence of a press chaperone were clues that Thompson is taking a different approach to his potential candidacy. A campaign flack would have insisted on hiding the cigars--Senator, how did you get those Cuban cigars? Isn't there a trade embargo?

“From the Courthouse to the White House: Fred Thompson auditions for the leading role” by Stephen F. Hayes The Weekly Standard 04/23/2007

Brown and Black Democratic Forum

Brown and Black Forum, Des Moines, Iowa 12/01/07

Michelle Norris: (1:24:57). This question is for Senator Clinton. A large percentage of Americans support normalizing relations with Cuba and
loosening travel restrictions. What would you do as president with regard to normalizing relations, ending the trade embargo, opening the door to travel and to diplomatic relations with Cuba?

Hillary Clinton: (1:25:22) Well I think we are going to have that opportunity because I believe that when Fidel Castro finally does pass on, there will be a tremendous pent up desire on the part of the Cuban people for freedom and for democracy. Certainly if they were to make steps right now to recognize human rights, to release political prisoners, there could be perhaps some reciprocal action taken by the United States but until there is some recognition on the part of whoever is in charge of the Cuban government that they have to move towards democracy and freedom for the Cuban people, it will be very difficult for us to change our policy. But I look forward as president to perhaps being there when that opportunity arises.

You know it’s tragic that in the last seven years we’ve lost ground in Latin America. We’ve lost it as more and more countries have moved away
from democracy [toward] authoritarian even dictatorial rule. We see what’s happening in Venezuela with the big power grab going on by Chavez and I hope that when I’m president we can get re-engaged and we pay more attention to Latin America and we start building relationships again. I think that’s important for us and important for the people of those countries.

MN: (1:26:44) Thank you; just a very quick follow-up. You said that the US may have soon an opportunity, but Fidel Castro is very strong. And if he does last into 2008, in January of 2009 and beyond, would you normalize relations with Cuba.

HC: (1:27:01) No. Not unless he made, or whoever was then the head of government in Cuba made, significant changes in the way that they treated their own people and I think that has to be a precondition.

MN: (1:27:16) Thank you very much Senator. Senator Dodd very quickly? Very

Chris Dodd: (1:27:20) I served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic and spent a lot time on Latin American issues and chaired the [sub]committee of the Foreign Relations Committee for the last 26 years dealing with Latin American. I think we are making a huge mistake by not normalizing relations with Cuba. The only one who is benefiting from this in my view, the only one who has benefited is Fidel Castro. This is outrageous in my view. If you want to create change in the country as we did with the eastern block countries, this is the way, is to allow travel to occur. This is the only country in the world where Americans are not allowed to travel there because our country forbids them from going there. That is how you create change in these countries. This embargo has done nothing but keep Fidel Castro in power. I think we ought to abandon
the embargo, open up travel restrictions and he’ll create change immediately in my view of Cuba.

MN: (1:28:08) Very quickly for the sake of fairness another very quick yes no
question. Normalize relations with Cuba just down the line, starting with you.

John Edwards: (1:28:18) Without respect to what’s happening with Castro.

MN: (1:28:22) Irregardless.

JE: (1:28:23) No. Not unless and until something has happened with Castro.

MN: (1:28:28) Representative Kucinich?

Dennis Kucinich: (1:28:29) Yes.

MN: (1:28:30) Senator Biden?

Joe Biden: (1:38:31) We have to reach out to the Cuban people right now because he’s not going to last no matter what you say and the bottom line is we have to have a plan. There is no plan. Chris is right. You’ve got to normalize relations with them eventually and it seems to me that’s going to come very quickly.

MN: (1:28:43) Normalize relations whether or not Fidel Castro is in power?

JB: (1:28:47) Not as long as he in fact has his human rights policy but you’ve got to compete with it.

MN: (1:28:51) Thank you. Senator Obama?

Barack Obama: (1:28:52) No, but there are two things we can do right now to prepare for that. And that is loosen travel restrictions for family members, Cuban Americans who want to visit and open up remittances so that they are able to support family members, many of them who are fighting for their liberty in Cuba right now.

MN: (1:29:10) But for right now?

BO: (1:29:12) I would not normalize relations but those two things, those two shifts in policy would send a signal that we can build on once Castro is out of power.

MN: (1:29:20) Very quickly Governor Richardson?

Bill Richardson: (1:29:22) Michelle as the only brown member in this debate, is there any chance we could have civil rights equity and have the brown guy get a little more time?

MN: (1:29:34) When you put it like that.

BR: (1:29:42) This is what I, Cuba. You always want to get something in return. The embargo has not worked. In return for lifting the embargo, there have to be some democratic reforms, release of political prisoners in Cuba. But we should stop preventing Cuban Americans from going back and forth with family visits. We should in addition to that permit remittances that are not taking place.

But most importantly we should send a signal to Latin America, as we should to Africa that we care about the third world. That we care about problems that relate to the relationship with our southern hemisphere. That we care deeply about the fact that Hugo Chavez has more influence than we do because we are not paying enough attention to the region. That we need creative trade relations that we need renewable energy ties with Latin America. That we also need to make sure that we resolve the immigration issue, which effects not just Mexico but Central American and the Caribbean and the whole hemisphere.

(Slightly edited for clarity and consistency from on line transcript.)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Republicans on Cuba at Univision Debate

PAUL: Actually, I believe we're at a time where we even ought to talk to Cuba and trade and travel to Cuba.



But let me -- let me tell you -- let me tell you why -- let me tell you why we have a problem in South America and Central America: because we've been involved in their internal affairs for so long. We have been meddling in their business.


We create the Chavezes of the world, we create the Castros of the world by interfering and creating chaos in their countries, and they respond by throwing out their leader.


MODERATOR: Thank you, Mayor. Thank you, Mayor.

When talking about Cuba, Cuban dictatorship has survived nine U.S. presidents. What would you do differently, that has not been done so far, to bring democracy to Cuba? We're going to start with Senator Thompson.

THOMPSON: I'm going to make sure that he didn't survive 10 U.S. presidents.

Castro is unique in many respects.

THOMPSON: He represents the only non-democratic, at least, elected government in the hemisphere. He is uniquely brutal. He is still tyrannizing his own people.
He lures the vulnerable and the naive Americans down there and puts on shows for them and they come back and do his propaganda. There are not many people who can pull that sort of thing off.
He's obviously in bad health. That situation, probably, is in God's hands. He will probably be succeeded by someone who's no better than him, and that is Raul.
And we should treat Raul with the same contempt that we show Castro, including keeping the embargo on Cuba.


MODERATOR: Governor Romney, what would you do differently that has not been done so far?

ROMNEY: Well, first of all, you've got to think about who Castro is, and who Raul Castro is as well.

ROMNEY: We call them strongmen -- dictators, authorative totalitarian leaders. And yet these are individuals who are not strong. Look at what they have done? Brothers to the rescue. They shoot a small aircraft out of the sky. People wearing a wristband that says change, are arrested -- 25 of them just for wearing a wristband; a Catholic church is edited and people are terrified because a priest is just speaking his sermon.

These people, these Castro brothers are cowards, and we have to recognize they are cowards.


And for that reason, the course for America is to continue our isolation of Cuba. It is not to say, as Barack Obama on the Democratic side said, that he would dignify the Castros with a personal visit to Cuba. That's not the way to go. Instead, it's to bring our friends together to isolate Cuba, to put together a strategy that helps all of Latin America, weakens Hugo Chavez who is propping up Castro.

ROMNEY: We need a Latin American policy that frees Cuba and that eliminates a threat of people like Hugo Chavez.


MODERATOR: Thank you. Governor?

MODERATOR: Senator McCain, the same question. What would you do differently?

MCCAIN: First of all, could I again congratulate the people of Venezuela for rejecting this dictator's attempt to become a president for life? And I also would like to echo the words of Prince Juan Carlos, Por que no te callas? Why don't you shut up?

I'm pleased to have the support of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario and Lincoln Diaz-
Balart, who advise me and know these issues, and Mel Martinez, every day. My friends, tonight our thoughts and prayers go out to Dr. Bucet (ph), who fights for freedom, who is now in prison, because Dr. Bucet (ph) resisted and fought against a state-controlled and state-mandated abortion.

MCCAIN: God bless him and those students who wore this bracelet called Cambio, who are now under arrest today.

Of course we need to keep our embargo up. Of course we cannot allow economic aid to flow to Cuba. And if I were president of the United States, I would order an investigation of the shoot-down of those brave Cubans who were killed under the orders of Raul and Fidel Castro, and, if necessary, indict them.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

How the candidates currently line up on Cuba

Following are capsule summaries of the positions of candidates for President on travel to Cuba from most open to most closed. A link is provided to donate to candidates who have expressed a positive position on travel during the campaign.


Dodd (withdrew candidacy)
end the embargo and all restrictions on travel, cosponsor S 721

end the embargo, cosponsor HR 654
[web does not offer personalized donation pages]

end all restrictions on family travel and remittances

Richardson (withdrew candidacy)
favors family travel and remittances, begin lifting embargo if political prisoners released

favors family travel but not remittances

Biden (withdrew candidacy)
has voted for travel but not on record during campaign

supports Bush policy with exception only for family emergencies


has cosponsored HR 654 to end all restrictions on travel , supports end of embargo
[web site does not offer a personalized donation page: read full position here]

All other Republican candidates endorse the Bush Administration's harsh restrictions on travel.

To support legislation to end all travel restrictions, go to

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ron Paul Column advocates freedom of trade and travel

Texas Straight Talk

Weekly on line column by Representative Ron Paul

Struggling for Relevance in Cuba: Close, Still No Cigars

Since Raul Castro seems to be transitioning to a more permanent position of power, the administration has begun talking about Cuba policy again. One would think we would be able to survey the results of the last 45 years and come to logical conclusions. Changing course never seems to be an option, however, no matter how futile or counterproductive our past actions have been.

The Cuban embargo began officially in 1962 as a means to put pressure on the communist dictatorship to change its ways. After 45 years, the Cuban economy has struggled, but Cuba 's dictatorship is no closer to stepping to the beat of our drum. Any ailments have consistently and successfully been blamed on US Capitalism instead of Cuban Communism. They have substituted trade with others for trade with the US , and are "awash" with development funds from abroad. Our isolationist policies with regards to Cuba , meanwhile, have hardly won the hearts and minds of Cubans or Cuban-Americans, many of whom are isolated from families because this political animosity.

In the name of helping Cubans, the US administration is calling for "multibillions" of taxpayer dollars in foreign aid and subsidies for internet access, education and business development for Cubans under the condition that the Cuban government demonstrates certain changes. In the same breath, they claim lifting the embargo would only help the dictatorship. This is exactly backwards. Free trade is the best thing for people in both Cuba and the US . Government subsidies would enrich those in power in Cuba at the expense of already overtaxed Americans!

The irony of supposed Capitalist, free-marketeers inducing Communists to freedom with government hand-outs should not be missed. We call for a free and private press in Cuba while our attempts to propagandize Cubans through the US government run Radio/TV Marti has wasted $600 million in American taxpayer dollars.

It's time to stop talking solely in terms of what's best for the Cuban people. How about the wishes of the American people, who are consistently in favor of diplomacy with Cuba ? Let's stop the hysterics about the freedom of Cubans – which is not our government's responsibility – and consider freedom of the American people, which is. Americans want the freedom to travel and trade with their Cuban neighbors, as they are free to travel and trade with Vietnam and China . Those Americans who do not wish to interact with a country whose model of governance they oppose are free to boycott. The point being – it is Americans who live in a free country, and as free people we should choose who to buy from or where to travel, not our government.

Our current administration is perceived as irrelevant, at best, in Cuba and the message is falling on deaf ears there. If the administration really wanted to extend the hand of friendship, they would allow the American people the freedom to act as their own ambassadors through trade and travel. Considering the lack of success government has had in engendering friendship with Cuba , it is time for government to get out of the way and let the people reach out.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Village Voice: Hillary Clinton on Travel

Hillary's Infidelity
Obama's strategy makes her spurn Bill's Cuban advances and embrace Bush and the GOP's anti-Castro right.
by Kirk Nielsen
October 9th, 2007 6:04 PM

(excerpt, for full story go to,nielsen,78030,2.html )

There's a missing piece in the apple pie that Hillary Clinton has been serving up to Americans on the campaign trail. "Americans from all walks of life across our country may be invisible to this president," she says. "But they won't be invisible to me."
They won't be, that is, unless they are Americans who just want to visit their moms in Cuba once a year.

That missing piece is why Barack Obama's recent Cuba-policy offering looked so nice: He called for an end to the Bush administration's restrictions on Cuban-Americans who want to visit or send money to relatives in Cuba. Obama's proposal was as layered and complex—and as sweet—as the cake called tres leches (three milks: whole, condensed, and powdered). It smacked of family values, and it was in keeping with the thrust toward dialogue, trade, and other human contact with Cuba that Bill Clinton had pursued as president.

In effect, Obama has pushed Hillary into the Bush camp on Cuba policy. She has even parroted the neocon hard line against the lefties who have taken over several Latin American governments. Obama thus distinguished himself from her on an important geopolitical issue besides the Iraq War (and her initial support for it). He may also have opened a serious fissure in the GOP's last Hispanic stronghold—Cuban-Americans—from which at least a trickle of new Democratic votes could flow.

This Clinton-Obama split has exposed a rift among national Democratic leaders over how to capitalize on weakening Cuban support for Republicans in the battleground state of Florida as part of an effort to solidify Democratic support among the growing number of Hispanic voters nationwide.

Moreover, Obama dished out a sweet antidote to the bitter brew that George W. Bush had served up in the 2004 campaign. To the pleasure of hardcore Republican exiles, Bush reduced Cuban-Americans' freedom to travel to Cuba from once per year to once every three years; they could stay only 14 days and spend only $50 per day; and they needed the Treasury Department's permission. Bush also limited their remittances to relatives to $300 every three months. His Commerce Department created a new list of items—including such subversive things as hand soap, toothpaste, and clothes—that all Americans are forbidden from sending to Cuba. (In general, U.S. law prohibits all other U.S. citizens from traveling to Cuba at all.)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Senator Dodd's Cuba Policy Speech

Remarks of Senator Christopher J. Dodd, as delivered

Cuba Policy Roll-outThe Biltmore, MiamiSaturday, September 8, 2007 (text and video)

Every four years candidates seeking the Presidency rediscover Cuba. They travel to Florida and pledge to maintain sanctions against the government of Fidel Castro until democracy flowers on the Island of Cuba.
Today, with our election 14 months away, the Miami pilgrimage has already begun.
One of my Democratic opponents has already pledged to maintain the embargo.
Another proposes to slightly change the policy.
Today, United States policy toward Cuba has been essentially the same for almost fifty years.
I believe the time has come to say publicly what many Americans believe including many Cuban-Americans – our Cuba policy has neither served America’s interests nor brought democracy to Cuba. It has been an abject failure.
I have the deepest respect for the Cuban American community and the pain, hardship and suffering the entire community has been through. I harbor no illusion about the current state of affairs in Cuba and the extreme difficulties Cubans live under.
But, today I believe that we are at a critical moment in Cuba’s changing political landscape, with Fidel Castro having recently turned over day-to-day authority of running Cuba to Raoul Castro and a small number of loyalists.
I believe we must make a choice – the United States can either be players in helping to shape the Cuba landscape for the next fifty years, or remain on the sidelines while the future of Cuba is determined by others.
To be sure, there is no reason to believe that a policy that has failed to promote the peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba for the last fifty years would succeed in bringing democracy to Cuba in the next fifty.
We all know the dubious achievements of the current policy:
Denying Americans their fundamental right to travel freely and visit their families in Cuba;
Restricting the access of American farmers to Cuban markets;
And, preventing American families from benefiting from potentially lifesaving medical advances that are today underway in Cuban laboratories and medical clinics in the fight against cancer and other incurable diseases.
The current policy has also made the lives of the 11 million Cubans living on the island more difficult.
Current policies have denied them access to most American goods and services.
It has restricted visits from their family members and loved ones residing in America, allowing only a single visit every three years, for up to 14 days.
And the policy has barred their American family members from sending more than $300 every three months to their impoverished Cuban relatives – a mere $1,200 per year.
In addition, this policy has been yet another source of tension in our relations with allied and friendly governments throughout the Americas and the world.
Other than the war in Iraq, perhaps no other American policy is more broadly unpopular internationally.And at a time when our standing in the world is already in tatters, compromising our ability to address threats through international cooperation, we can ill afford to continue this failed policy.
But perhaps the most dubious achievement of this 50-year old policy is the gift it has been to Fidel Castro. I am totally convinced that the current policy has had more to do with sustaining Fidel Castro’s control over the Cuban people than anything else we have done.
This policy has been little more than a straw man Fidel Castro has been able to point to, to justify economic failures of his regime and political repression he practices in the name of national security.
I come here today to say that the fiftieth anniversary of this policy will be its last.
In a Dodd presidency, on January 20, 2009, America’s failed Cuba policy will end – and a new era will begin. An era of greater American safety and security, an era of strength, optimism and confidence, and an era without fear.
Let me tell you what that era will look like and how we will make it possible – beginning with a new policy on Cuba.
I will begin by working to unravel the embargo by seeking the repeal of the Helms Burton Act – a law that has placed onerous restrictions on the ability of the United States to play any meaningful role in the ongoing transition in Cuba.
As President, I will amend the Trade Sanctions Reform Act which places restrictions on Americans’ rights to travel and American farmers’ ability to access Cuba markets.
I will instruct the Secretary of State to authorize our diplomats to meet more regularly with their Cuban counterparts at all levels and open an embassy in Havana to better serve Americans and American interests in Cuba.
Further, I will reinvigorate the US/Cuba Migration Agreement bilateral talks. They will serve as a forum to discuss outstanding bilateral issues, which this administration has flatly disregarded.
And, I will shut down TV Marti.
American taxpayers should not be asked to subsidize a television station that virtually no one in Cuba can ever see.
And as President, I will repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act – a law which has only encouraged Cuban migrants to risk their lives at sea and fall prey to international smuggling organizations with the promise of gaining legal resident status here in the United States.
I know some will ask, “Why are you doing this? Why now?”
I am proposing these changes to the current policy because they make sense and are the right thing to do – for the Cuban people, but more importantly for America.
And I refuse to let Fidel Castro or his successor determine the timetable for setting America’s foreign policy.
Setting America’s policy is for the American President to decide and the American people.
I also believe now more than ever before the United States has an opportunity to be a player in influencing the ongoing transition to a post-Castro Cuba.
If Cuban authorities want to stand in the way of these changes they can, but it will be clear to the world—and more importantly to the Cuban people—who is responsible for the impoverished and repressive state of affairs in Cuba – the Cuban government.
The fig leaf of an excuse provided by the U.S. embargo will be gone, and the Cuban people will not only know who bears the responsibility for failure – they will demand accountability and change.
And when that day comes, the road to the peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba will be well underway and America’s interests -- our safety and security -- enhanced.
Thank you.

Web page

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Univision Debate: Clinton, Dodd, Gravel, Richardson on Cuba

Following are Cuba related excerpts from the transcript of the Univision debate yesterday.

The audience reaction that is indicated is interesting but someone who is on the spot or watched it needs to comment about whether the audience was more favorable to Senator Clinton's echo of President Bush or the pro-normalization sentiments of Senator Dodd and former Senator Gravel.

Clinton seems to want it both ways. 'the Cuban people deserve freedom and democracy and we're all hopeful that that can be brought about peacefully' vs. 'Look at what we face today because of the misguided, bullying policies of this president. So let's reverse it and get ready for freedom in Cuba!' Was she referring to Bush bullying Chavez or Cuba? What else is her veiled prediction/threat of unpeaceful change than the same kind of bullying? (When will a journalist have the smarts to ask why her position on family and purposeful travel is Bush's rather than her husband's poliicy?)

Richardson was disappointing and Dodd again set the standard for a rational policy. Obama was not asked about his position which makes one wonder what Univision's agenda was.

RICHARDSON: Well, what I would do is -- for one, I would pay attention to Latin America if I'm president. This president does not.Number two, we've got to fix the immigration issue. That is centralnot just to Mexico but Central America.Number three, we've got to deal with the Cuba issue. What we needthere is possibly start lifting the embargo but only -- (applause) -- afterFidel Castro releases political prisoners and their democratic freedoms.

Senator Gravel, the same question. Do you consider Hugo Chavez adictator? Would you break relations with him?

MR. GRAVEL: No, not at all. In fact, I would reach out to him. Do weforget that on a weekend our CIA tried to depose him? Do we forget that? And of course -- so, is he an enemy? No, he's not an enemy. We've created him as an enemy. We're doing the same thing with Iran. What's the difference if Chavez deals with Iran? We hope that a lot of countries begin to interchange their leadership and begin to think about the globe as one entity. There's nothing wrong.The same thing with Fidel Castro. Why can't we recognize Cuba? Why --what's the big deal, after 25 years -- (applause) -- that these people 125 miles from this country are discriminated against? It makes no sense at all. We need to open up our arms to all nations and treat them as friends,not start looking for enemies. (Applause.)

This is the chance to speak about Cuba now. Senator Clinton, what dothink would happen in Cuba without Fidel Castro? And what role would theU.S. play after his death or in that transition?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, the Cuban people deserve freedom and democracy,and we're all hopeful that that can be brought about peacefully. It appears as though the reign of Castro is reaching an end. We don't know what will follow Fidel Castro, but we need to do everything we can to work with our friends in Latin America who are democratic nations, with the Europeans and others, to try to bring about a peaceful transition to democracy and freedom for the Cuban people.Now, that requires that we work with the entire hemisphere. You know,in 1994 I remember being here in Miami when my husband hosted the Summit of the Americas.At that time, there was only one anti-democratic, anti-American leaderin the hemisphere, namely Castro. Look at what we face today because of themisguided, bullying policies of this president. So let's reverse it and getready for freedom in Cuba! (Cheers, applause.)

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Senator. Senator Dodd, the same question. What would Cuba be like withoutCastro? And what's the role of the United States?

SEN. DODD: Well, a very important one, and the transition is alreadyoccurring, I would suggest to you here. You don't have to wait for it tohappen. The question is whether or not we're going to sit on the sidelines or be a part of this transition here.Certainly what we've done over the last 50 years I don't think hasworked. Fifty years of this policy, of the embargo has basically left the same man in power, the same repressive politics, an economy that's been failing in the country. He has been using that as an excuse for his own failures. As president of the United States, I would begin to unravel that embargo. I would lift travel restrictions, so Cuban Americans can go visit their families. (Cheers, applause.) I would be lifting the restrictions on remissions -- (still get back ?).We need to engage in a constructive and positive way. This is hurting us as well throughout the Americas here. Our ability to engage the rest of this hemisphere is directly related to our ability to engage intelligently in this transition. It takes new, bold leadership to do this. We need to understand that the hopes and aspirations of the Cuban people are as important as anything to us. We need safety and security; we need not fear Fidel Castro. We need to understand it and be part of the transition to make a difference for that country as it is occurring. (Applause.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

How the candidates currently line up on Cuba

Following are capsule summaries of the positions of candidates for President on travel to Cuba from most open to most closed. A link is provided to donate to candidates who have expressed a positive position on travel during the campaign.


Dodd: end the embargo and all restrictions on travel, cosponsor S 721

Kucinich: end the embargo, cosponsor HR 654
[web does not offer personalized donation pages]

Obama: end all restrictions on family travel and remittances

Richardson: favors family travel and remittances, begin lifting embargo if prisoners released

Edwards: favors family travel but not remittances

Biden: has voted for travel but not on record during campaign

Clinton: has voted for travel but now supports Bush policy with exception only for family emergencies


Paul: has cosponsored HR 654 to end all restrictions on travel , supports end of embargo
[web site does not offer a personalized donation page: read full position here]

All other Republican candidates support the Bush Administration's draconian restrictions on travel.

To support legislation to end all travel restrictions, go to

Obama: Allow Family Travel, Remittances

Op Ed in Miami Herald

Posted on Tue, Aug. 21, 2007


When my father was a young man living in Kenya, the freedom and opportunity of the United States exerted such a powerful draw that he moved halfway around the world to pursue his dreams here. My father's story is not unique. The same has been true for tens of millions of people, from every continent -- including for the many Cubans who have come and made their lives here since the start of Fidel Castro's dictatorship almost 50 years ago.

It is a tragedy that, just 90 miles from our shores, there exists a society where such freedom and opportunity are kept out of reach by a government that clings to discredited ideology and authoritarian control. A democratic opening in Cuba is, and should be, the foremost objective of our policy. We need a clear strategy to achieve it -- one that takes some limited steps now to spread the message of freedom on the island, but preserves our ability to bargain on behalf of democracy with a post-Fidel government.

The primary means we have of encouraging positive change in Cuba today is to help the Cuban people become less dependent on the Castro regime in fundamental ways. U.S. policy must be built around empowering the Cuban people, who ultimately hold the destiny of Cuba in their hands. The United States has a critical interest in seeing Cuba join the roster of stable and economically vibrant democracies in the Western Hemisphere. Such a development would bring us important security and economic benefits, and it would allow for new cooperation on migration, counter-narcotics and other issues.

These interests, and our support for the aspirations of the Cuban people, are ill served by the further entrenchment of the Castro regime, which is why we need to advance peaceful political and economic reform on the island. Castro's ill health and the potentially tumultuous changes looming ahead make the matter all the more urgent.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration has made grand gestures to that end while strategically blundering when it comes to actually advancing the cause of freedom and democracy in Cuba. This is particularly true of the administration's decision to restrict the ability of Cuban

Americans to visit and send money to their relatives in Cuba. This is both a humanitarian and a strategic issue. That decision has not only had a profoundly negative impact on the welfare of the Cuban people. It has also made them more dependent on the Castro regime and isolated them from the transformative message carried there by Cuban Americans.

In the ''Cuban spring'' of the late 1990s and early years of this decade, dissidents and human-rights activists had more political space than at any time since the beginning of Castro's rule, and Cuban society experienced a small opening in advancing the cause of freedom for the Cuban people.

U.S. policies -- especially the fact that Cuban Americans were allowed to maintain and deepen ties with family on the island -- were a key cause of that ''Cuban spring.'' Although cut off by the Castro regime's deplorable March 2003 jailing of 75 of Cuba's most prominent and courageous dissidents, the opening underscored what is possible with a sensible strategic approach.
We in the United States should do what we can to bring about another such opening, taking certain steps now-and pledging to take additional steps as temporary openings are solidified into lasting change.

Cuban-American connections to family in Cuba are not only a basic right in humanitarian terms, but also our best tool for helping to foster the beginnings of grass-roots democracy on the island. Accordingly, I will grant Cuban Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send remittances to the island.

But as we reach out in some ways now, it makes strategic sense to hold on to important inducements we can use in dealing with a post-Fidel government, for it is an unfortunate fact that his departure by no means guarantees the arrival of freedom on the island.

Accordingly, I will use aggressive and principled diplomacy to send an important message: If a post-Fidel government begins opening Cuba to democratic change, the United States (the president working with Congress) is prepared to take steps to normalize relations and ease the embargo that has governed relations between our countries for the last five decades. That message coming from my administration in bilateral talks would be the best means of promoting Cuban freedom. To refuse to do so would substitute posturing for serious policy -- and we have seen too much of that in other areas over the past six years.

We must not lose sight of our fundamental goal: freedom in Cuba. At the same time, we should be pragmatic in our approach and clear-sighted about the effects of our policies. We all know the power of the freedom and opportunity that America at its best has both embodied and advanced. If deployed wisely, those ideals will have as transformative effect on Cubans today as they did on my father more than 50 years ago.

[A concrete way to express your appreciation for Obama's statement is through this donation page ]

Dodd: End All Travel Restrictions

August 15, 2007 - 3:12pm

Senator Dodd has been a long-time advocate for free travel to Cuba and ending the economic restrictions that prevent American food and medicines from reaching Cuba. Here's a statement from Dodd on his thoughts about US policy on Cuba.

I want to see the peaceful transition to democracy occur on the Island of Cuba in my life time. That isn't going to happen if we continue the misguided policies of the last forty-six years.
We must open the flood gates to contacts with the Cuban people. We must remove restrictions on the ability of Cuban Americans to provide financial assistance to their loved ones. Even small sums of money in the hands of ordinary Cuban families can serve as catalysts for private investment to gain a foothold in Cuba.

I have long supported the freedom to travel to Cuba, which is why I have joined with twenty of my colleagues in a bi-partisan way to co-sponsor S.721 the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act of 2007.

It is simply un-American to bar American citizens from traveling to foreign countries. In fact, Americans are currently free to travel to both Iran and North Korea, two countries which pose far more serious threats to American national security than the government of Cuba.
But more than that, the United States' most potent weapon against totalitarianism is the influence of ordinary American citizens. They are some of the best ambassadors we have, and the free exchange of ideas and the interaction between Americans and Cubans are important ways to encourage democracy in Cuba.

For more than forty-six years, the United States has maintained an isolationist policy toward Cuba, which I believe has not achieved its intended objectives, namely to hasten a peaceful and democratic transition on the Island of Cuba. Rather, it has solidified the authoritarian control of Fidel Castro, and has adversely affected the already miserable living conditions of 11 million innocent men, women, and children on the Island.

I have long opposed restrictions on the sale of food and medicine to the Cuban people. Frankly I believe it is immoral to deprive innocent people from access to American medical and farm products. Moreover, we hurt our American farm families with such an ill conceived policy. It is a commonsense policy to encourage Cuban authorities to purchase US food and medicine rather than other foreign purchases that may impact adversely on our nation's security.

The Island of Cuba is in the throes of a transition to a post-Castro Cuba. A US policy of staying the course leaves us on the sides as the future of Cuba is being written. It is time to engage before it is too late to have a positive influence on the political landscape which is rapidly taking shape there. In a Dodd administration the United States will engage with the Cuban people in support of a peaceful transition to democracy.

[To express your appreciation for Sen. Dodd's position, donate to his campaign through this page ]

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

2005 and 2003 Senate Voting Records


Voting in favor of an amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill offered by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) to facilitate family travel to Cuba in humanitarian circumstances:
Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Hagel, Obama


S-950, the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act to end the travel ban. Among the 32 co-sponsors: Dodd, Hagel (non sponsors: Biden, Clinton)

Cuba Travel Amendment by Senators Enzi, Baucus, Craig and Dorgan to the Transportation/Treasury appropriations bill that would end funding for the travel ban. A motion to table the amendment failed 59-36 and the amendment itself passed on a voice vote. Voting against tabling, i.e. for travel: Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Hagel

Fred Thompson Violates Embargo While Attacking Michael Moore

[Fred] Thompson's work space looks just like what the home office of a successful politician or CEO should look like--though a little messier: a large desk, dark wood, leather furniture, lots of books and magazines and newspapers, a flat-screen TV, and box upon box of cigars--Montecristos from Havana.

The presence of the cigars and the absence of a press chaperone were clues that Thompson is taking a different approach to his potential candidacy. A campaign flack would have insisted on hiding the cigars.

“From the Courthouse to the White House: Fred Thompson auditions for the leading role” by Stephen F. Hayes The Weekly Standard


Richardson on Family Travel in Miami


"Richardson also favors making it easier for Cuban-Americans to visit family on the island and send money. Some exiles believe those contacts strengthen Fidel Castro's regime.

' I believe that would enhance family reunification and values,' he said. "

Miami Herald, Posted on May 30, 2007

Dodd and Obama Signed Letter Supporting Religious Travel

Christopher Dodd, Barack Obama and fifteen other senators signed a letter on March 8, 2006 to Secretary of Treasury Snow expressing concern about restrictions on travel by religious organizations.


Over the past several months, we have become aware that a number of long-established national U.S. religious institutions, who in the past have received licenses from the Office of Foreign Asset Control allowing them regular travel to Cuba to develop and maintain relations with church counterparts there, are now suddenly being denied their licenses for
reasons that do not appear well-founded. We are disturbed that OFAC appears to be defining what is and is not a religious organization -- in itself a precarious role for a U.S. Government agency -- and that its operating definition appears to be prejudiced against recognized, mainstream national religious institutions....

We understand the complicated political reality that exists between the United States and Cuban governments. However, we believe it is inappropriate and unacceptable for politics and government to serve as a hurdle and now as a barrier to faith-based connections between individuals. If anything, these connections foster greater religious
freedom in Cuba and contribute to a severely-lacking free-flowing exchange of ideas between the two countries.


Max Baucus
Michael Enzi
John Sununu
Jeff Bingaman
Byron Dorgan
Patrick Leahy
Ron Wyden
Dianne Feinstein
Edward Kennedy
Christopher Dodd
Tom Harkin
Mary Landrieu
James M. Jeffords
Barack Obama
Dick Durbin
Lincoln Chafee
Kent Conrad

2005 Votes on TV Marti

Clinton-Obama Differences Clear In Senate VotesRecords Can Be Baggage In Bids for White House

By Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 1, 2007; A01

One budget-related vote with broader political implications would have stripped funding for TV Marti, which beams television programming to Cuba, though the Cuban government jams the signal. Critics in Congress complain that the United States has spent almost $200 million on the failed effort and have targeted the program year after year.

Obama twice voted to cut off TV Marti funding, while Clinton supported maintaining it. Those votes will have resonance in Florida, which is a key primary state and may reschedule its 2008 primary date from March to February.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the senator's opposition to TV Marti was primarily about cost. But within Florida's large Cuban exile population, one of the most powerful voting blocs in the state, Clinton's and Obama's stances ally them with distinct groups: the older hard-liners and a younger, more progressive group of second-generation Cuban Americans and more recent immigrants whose numbers are growing. Clinton "is going with the status quo," said Sergio Bendixen, a Miami-based pollster who specializes in Hispanic voters. Obama, he said, "is with the position of change."


Senator Dorgan's amendment, which would have eliminated funding for TV Marti.

"We fund broadcasts into Cuba on something called Radio Marti which are very effective. The Cuban people listen to Radio Marti. Of course, they can listen to Miami radio stations as well. But we also fund something called TV Marti, and we have done it for years. The Government of Cuba, of Fidel Castro, jams the signals. We have Fat Albert, an aerostat balloon up there thousands of feet in the air, and the American taxpayer is paying for a fancy studio down on the ground. And up through this cable to Fat Albert we actually send signals into Cuba, television signals that the Cuban people can't see. Traditionally, they have been broadcast from 3 to 8 in the morning, and they are systematically jammed."

On the Motion to table the Dorgan amendment, Senator Clinton voted YEA, along with Bayh, Biden, Kerry, Lautenberg, Lieberman, Bill Nelson, Ben Nelson, Harry Reid, Salazar, Sarbanes, Schumer and 53 Republicans. Senator Obama voted NAY along with Dodd and 31 other Democrats as well as Enzi and Sununu.

Dorgan amendment, again regarding Television Marti (see above) Senator Dorgan:

"The amendment I offer today is very simple. It is an amendment that will eliminate the $21 million in this appropriations bill for something called Television Martí and will instead use that $21 million to restore funding for the Peace Corps."

The vote on this amendment was the same as the one above (#3) except that Senator Corzine decided that it made sense to vote against it to lock up the Cuban vote in his gubernatorial race. Mary Landrieu did not vote.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Bill Richardson on Cuban Aid Offer After Katrina

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you something -- in the last few days, because of the big U.N. Summit, the meeting of global leaders in New York, we interviewed the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez and also the number two man in Cuba, Ricardo Alarcon, Cuba's head of the national assembly, and both countries offered aid. Cuba offered over 1,500 doctors with hurricane backpacks. Even Florida senator, Mel Martinez said the U.S. Should have accepted that offer. What are your thoughts on that?

BILL RICHARDSON: Well, we should accept it, that's because of political reasons. Both Cuba and Venezuela, as you know, Amy, have very bad relations with the United States right now. We should not look in the eye of who is ready to help, especially in a disaster like we had, especially with the proximity of the Gulf coast and Cuba and Venezuela, and Venezuela provides a lot of our energy supply. So, we should have taken it.

But at the same time, I'm sure Castro and Chavez were kind of putting their thumb in our eye a little bit, but look, this is a case where we should have been prepared. Should we accept international assistance? Of course, if it helps.

Hillary Clinton Interview by AP on Cuba

Clinton also said she doesn't want to see immediate changes in the U.S. embargo against Cuba and travel restrictions to the communist country, but there may be need for change in the next presidency if Fidel Castro is no longer in power.

"There may be an opportunity when I'm president to do a review of our policy toward Cuba because there may be changes in Cuba," Clinton said. "I want to see how things develop, who's actually going to be in charge there and whether there may not be some openings."

She said she wants commitments to human rights and more openness in return for changes in U.S. policy. Castro has not been seen in public since July, when he underwent emergency intestinal surgery and ceded his presidential functions to his 75-year-old brother Raul, the defense minister.


Transcript of interview:

Interview with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

Florida AP May 21, 2007

Reporter: I need to ask you about a couple of things that are really a huge interest especially in South Florida and in the state, and let me begin with Cuba.

United States citizens can travel to Iran and North Korea. They may not travel to Cuba. As President, would you look at that policy and say, gee why are we prohibiting our citizens from traveling to this country even if it is ruled by a tyrant?

HRC: Well, when I’m President, we’re maybe going to have a chance to take a broad view of our relations with Cuba. Things seem to be changing there at least in terms of changing the guard. But I don’t know yet what the future holds because we’re not at all clear that anyone who comes after either of the Castros will be more open to democracy and human rights.

Reporter: Well, in the interim, however, for the last ten years or so, we had what is called a wet foot, dry foot policy, I know you know this, where Cubans who are picked up in the sea are sent back and those who reach US soil get to stay. And then we see Haitians and Dominicans and other people arrive here and reach US soil and they get shipped back. Now, is that disparity in treatment strike you as unjust?

HRC: Well, I hope in the course of this debate over comprehensive immigration reform we’re going to be looking at a range of issues over enforcement. It is certainly heartbreaking when people risk their lives; lose their lives, in trying to get to this country. That happens in the deserts of Mexico, and it happens on the high seas. So, I’m hoping we’re going to be able to have a more uniform approach for immigration enforcement.

Reporter: And finally, I’m just going to say, there have been a lot of Cuban-Americans who live here, still have family on the island. They may only go to Cuba once every three years. And, if family reunification is a goal of our general immigration policies, does that make sense?

HRC: Well, I know there are a number of hardship cases. I’ve visited with people who have elderly relatives who are not expected to live long, and I think there ought to be some discretion. But, I also believe, you’ve got to see where the changes in Cuba are leading us.

Comment: In the past, Senator Clinton has always voted favorably on Cuba travel. (See accompanying posting comparing Clinton, Dodd and Obama votes.)

In the actual transcript, she is far more cautious. Unrestricted travel for all Americans is not addressed and her view on modification of family travel does not even advocate the policy of the Clinton Administration (annual trips plus emergencies).

On the other hand, she is breaking new ground by linking illegal migration from Mexico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic with the currently priviledged situation of Cubans.

While anticipating the need to take a "broad view" of future relations with Cuba, it is not clear whether she is making that conditional on internal changes in democracy and human rights (the Bush Administration position).