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.)

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