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 ]