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).