Sunday, September 28, 2008

Loss of Florida Could Liberate Next President

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Florida vote may affect U.S.-Cuba policy

Here's one way of anticipating what will be the next U.S. president's policy on Cuba, Venezuela and other anti-American governments in the region: If either candidate wins the White House without winning Florida, he will feel much freer to change current U.S. policies toward these nations.

It sounds complicated, but it isn't. As we know, Florida is one of the key swing states in the November election, and has a significant Hispanic population that cares deeply about Latin American affairs.


Democratic candidate Barack Obama's Latin America platform calls for a relaxation of restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba without lifting U.S. trade sanctions. Let's say Obama loses Florida, but wins the November election. He could be tempted to go all the way and propose doing away with the U.S. embargo on the island, the theory goes. Key Democratic members of Congress are already calling for an end to trade sanctions.

Republican candidate John McCain's Latin American platform calls for a continuation of the Bush administration's tough line against the Cuban regime and pretty much echoes the stands of hard-line Cuban exile groups. Let's say McCain loses Florida, but wins the general election. He could conclude that he doesn't owe much to his Cuban exile constituency, the theory goes.

Much like fellow Republican Richard Nixon made history by opening ties to Communist China, McCain could surprise everybody by starting talks toward a normalization of ties with Cuba. That would draw enthusiastic support of key congressional Republicans from Midwestern farm states eager to export to Cuba.


Granted, the next president will not be able to change U.S.-Cuba policy by himself. Under the 1996 Helms-Burton law, the White House cannot lift the embargo without congressional approval, nor recognize any transitional Cuban government that includes Fidel or Raúl Castro.

But many long-time observers of U.S.-Cuban affairs note that the next U.S. president will be the first one in five decades to face a new reality in Cuba, following the recent resignation of Fidel Castro as president and his replacement by his 77-year-old brother Raúl.

''If you win the presidency without Florida, you don't feel as committed to abide by the current policy, and you can move to change it,'' says Crescencio Arcos, a former senior Homeland Security and State Department official. ``It's not that you can change it overnight, but you would have a tremendous bully pulpit to modify it.''

Jaime Suchlicki, head of the University of Miami's Institute of Cuban Studies and a supporter of the U.S. sanctions on the island, disagrees.

''Both parties are going to continue to try to seduce the Cuban exiles anyway, regardless of whether they win or lose Florida,'' Suchlicki says. 'If Obama loses the Cuban vote by a wide margin, he may think, `Look, we may have won one or two seats in Florida this time, and the congressional elections are close, so I can't just go and lift the embargo overnight.' ''

According to the latest polls, Obama is ahead nationwide, but trailing in Florida. A nationwide Washington Post/ABC poll with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points showed Obama leading with 52 percent and McCain trailing with 43 percent. Other polls have Obama ahead by two or three points, within the margin of error.

In Florida, a Fox News/Rasmussen poll with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points gave McCain 51 percent and Obama 46 percent. Other polls also have McCain leading, but within the margin of error.

My opinion: Regardless of who wins Florida, what may influence future U.S. policy toward Cuba the most will be whether the Democrats can increase their support among Cuban Americans, and -- more importantly -- whether they can unseat any of the three South Florida Cuban-exile Republicans in Congress.

McCain is expected to win the Cuban-American vote by about 70 percent. But the Democrats are outpacing Republicans in voter registration and fundraising in several South Florida districts.

If Obama exceeds expectations and wins around 40 percent of the Cuban-American vote, or a Democrat unseats one of the three South Florida Cuban-Americans in the House, it will be seen as a significant shift in Cuban exile politics. U.S. policy toward Cuba has long been a domestic political issue, and it may become more so this time around.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Presidential and Congressional Race Differences

Fidel's fading but what is next?

McCain and Obama clash over policy, island's embargo

David R. Sands

Washington Times

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

For the first time since the Kennedy administration, the next U.S. president won't have Cuban President Fidel Castro to deal with when he takes office in January.

Nevertheless, Republican Sen. John McCain and Democrat Sen. Barack Obama have clashed sharply over a post-Fidel policy and on the wisdom of easing the nearly 50-year-old embargo on the island. The fight is spilling over - once again - into politics across the Straits of Florida, where three Cuban-born Republican House members face strong challenges in November.

Democrats have set their sights on Republican incumbents Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in the 18th District, Rep. Lincoln-Diaz-Balart in the 21st District and his brother Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart in the 25th District - all born in Cuba and stalwarts of the fiercely anti-Castro Cuban-American community.

A key question in the contests is whether younger Cuban-Americans and non-Cuban Hispanics will embrace the uncompromising stands long favored by the older generation of Cuban exiles, said David Wasserman, who analyzes House races for the Cook Political Report. He says the Diaz-Balart brothers face especially difficult races.

The marquee matchup, according to Mr. Wasserman, pits Lincoln Diaz-Balart against fellow Cuban native and former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez. Dogged in the past by ethics investigations, Mr. Martinez has proved himself to have a populist touch and boasts a strong political base in Hialeah.

"People in Washington tend to think all these races will turn on Cuba issues exclusively," Mr. Wasserman said. "The three Democratic candidates are on a mission to prove that that is false, that the economy, the war in Iraq, the Bush record also matter."

With Mr. Diaz-Balart and Mr. Martinez both tough, experienced campaigners, "the race in the 21st District might be one of the ugliest in the country," he predicted. "We will see a race that operates in a different universe from the others we're watching."

In the presidential fight, Mr. McCain has touted his "maverick" image, but he is unequivocally backing the Bush administration's hard line in support of the embargo, accusing Mr. Obama of naivete in thinking new President Raul Castro, Fidel Castro's 77-year-old younger brother, presents an opportunity for a new policy tack.

Mr. McCain's views "have been totally consistent," said Adolfo Franco, a top spokesman on Latin American issues for the campaign, at a packed briefing on Cuban issues late last week at the Inter-American Dialogue. "A pariah state like Cuba should not be rewarded until it makes a demonstrable commitment toward democracy, and that hasn't happened."

Dan Restrepo, a senior fellow on Latin American issues at the Center for American Progress and a spokesman for the Obama campaign, argued that the long embargo had failed to undermine the Castro regime and it was time for a new approach.

"We certainly should not reward the repressive regime in Cuba, and maintaining a policy that hasn't worked for 50 years is a reward," he said. "We cannot continue doing more of the same and somehow expect a different result."

Mr. Restrepo said Mr. Obama would roll back limits imposed by Mr. Bush on Cuban-Americans sending money back to their families on the island and on travel to Cuba. The restrictions have been unpopular with many Cuban-Americans in southern Florida, who have proved a critical voting bloc in one of the nation's premier swing states.

More ambitiously, Mr. Obama would be ready to "start down the road to normalization" if Raul Castro's government releases unconditionally all of the regime's political prisoners, Mr. Restrepo said. During the Democratic primary debates, Mr. Obama listed Mr. Castro along with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez as hostile foreign leaders with whom he would be prepared to meet during his first year in office if he thought it would advance U.S. interests.

"That's not rewarding the regime. It's a case of not being afraid to use the bully pulpit," Mr. Restrepo insisted.

Mr. Adolfo, however, countered that Raul Castro had introduced only minor "window-dressing" reforms since succeeding his brother in mid-2006 and that U.S. concessions would be a "colossal mistake."

"It would in Sen. McCain's view be a tragedy at the twilight of this regime that we actually would sit down without preconditions and reward the Castro brothers," he said. Fidel's fading but what is next?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Obama: Lift Cuba Restrictions To Aid Gustav Victims

Obama: Lift Cuba Restrictions To Aid Gustav Victims

Wed, September 03, 2008 - 6:11 PM

Sen. Barack Obama today called on President Bush to lift U.S. travel for and other restrictions on family remittances, visits and humanitarian care packages to Cuba because of damage to the island country for 90 days because of Hurrican Gustav.

“I wish to express my deepest sympathies for those affected by Hurricane Gustav, particularly the untold number affected in Cuba, who face the daunting task of reconstructing their lives with the weight of the failed Castro regime on their shoulders,” said Obama in a statement.

“This is a time when the Cuban people – not (Fidel) Castro – need and deserve American compassion and assistance. Make no mistake – the embargo must remain, and I strongly oppose any aid to the Castro regime,” said Obama.

“The Cuban American community stands ready to directly assist their family members in this time of need. A failed Bush administration policy, however, stands in the way of moral and necessary aid,” he added.

Raul Martinez, the former Hialeah mayor now running for Congress as a Democrat against Miami-area incumbent Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, also called for a temporary suspension of the restrictions in a separate statement, because of the damage in Cuba from Hurricane Gustav is heavy and Cubans need help.

Democratic and Republican Platform Texts on Cuba

Democratic Platform, page 37

Recommit to an Alliance of the Americas

We recognize that the security and prosperity of the United States is fundamentally tied to the
future of the Americas. We believe that in the 21st century, the U.S. must treat Latin America
and the Caribbean as full partners, just as our neighbors to the south should reject the bombast
of authoritarian bullies. Our relationship with Canada, our long-time ally, should be strengthened
and enhanced. An alliance of the Americas will only succeed if it is founded on the bedrock of
mutual respect and works to advance democracy, opportunity, and security from the bottomup.

We must turn the page on the arrogance in Washington and the anti-Americanism across the region that stands in the way of progress. We must work with close partners like Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia on issues like ending the drug trade, fighting poverty and inequality, and immigration. We must work with the Caribbean community to help restore stability and the rule of law to Haiti, to improve the lives of its people, and to strengthen its democracy. And we must build ties to the people of Cuba and help advance their liberty by allowing unlimited family visits and remittances to the island, while presenting the Cuban regime with a clear choice: if it takes significant steps toward democracy, beginning with the unconditional release of all political prisoners, we will be prepared to take steps to begin normalizing relations.

Republican Platform, p 8-9

Strengthening Ties in the Americas

Faith and family, culture and commerce, are enduring bonds among all the peoples of the
Americas. Republicans envision a western hemisphere of sovereign nations with secure borders,
working together to advance liberty and mutually beneficial trade based on sound and proven free enterprise principles. Our relations with our immediate neighbors, Canada and Mexico, are grounded on our shared values and common purpose, as well as our steadily increasing trade. We pledge to continue this close association and to advance mutually beneficial trade agreements throughout Latin America, promoting economic development and social stability there while opening markets to our goods and services. Our strong ties with Canada and Mexico should not lead to a North American union or a unified currency.

Two factors distort this hemispheric progress. One is narco-terrorism, with its ability to destabilize societies and corrupt the political process. In an era of porous borders, the war on drugs and the war on terror have become a single enterprise. We salute our allies in the fight against this evil, especially the people of Mexico and Colombia, who have set an example for their neighbors. We support approval of the free trade agreement with Colombia, currently blocked by Capitol Hill Democrats and their union boss supporters, as an overdue gesture of solidarity for this courageous ally of the United States.

The other malignant element in hemispheric affairs is the anachronistic regime in Havana, a
mummified relic from the age of totalitarianism, and its buffoonish imitators. We call on the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean to join us in laying the groundwork for a democratic Cuba. Looking to the inevitable day of liberation, we support restrictions on trade with, and travel to, Cuba as a measure of solidarity with the political prisoners and all the oppressed Cuban people. We call for a dedicated platform for transmission of Radio and Television Marti into Cuba and, to prepare for the day when Cuba is free, we support the work of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba. We affirm the principles of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, recognizing the rights of Cubans fleeing Communist tyranny, and support efforts to admit more of them through a safe, legal, orderly process.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Joe Biden on Cuba

BIDEN Issues Statement on the Resignation of Cuban President Fidel Castro

February 19, 2008

Washington, DC - Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) issued the following statement after the official announcement that Cuban President Fidel Castro is stepping down:

"With Castro's resignation, Cuba's darkest days could finally be coming to an end, opening up a new age of possibility for the Cuban people and Cuban-American relations. But a possibility is not a guarantee.

"Whether Raul Castro, or another, is named successor, we should not consider lifting the embargo until Cuba frees political prisoners, respects human rights and allows independent civil organizations. However, we should not sit back and wait for the successor to act; there are steps we should take now to support the Cuban people and to start to put in place a strong foundation for freedom and free enterprise.

"First, we should allow increased travel of Cuban Americans to the island for family or humanitarian visits. Second, we should expand family remittances from Cuban Americans to include extended family. Third, we should allow U.S.-based companies and non-profits to send remittances to Cubans to support small business, and we should establish an Enterprise Fund, like the ones we set up after the end of communism in Eastern Europe, to jump start small and medium-sized private enterprise. Finally, we must establish direct mail service to Cuba.

"The Cuban-American community has a lead role to play in these efforts. Together, we can build the kind of bright future Cuba's people deserve after decades in the dark."

At Brown and Black Forum, Des Moines, 12/01/07:

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.

His "Chris" reference:

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.

Also, in 2003 Senators Michael Enzi (R-WY), Max Baucus (D-MT), Larry Craig (R-ID) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND) offered an amendment to the Transportation/Treasury appropriations bill that would end funding for the travel ban to Cuba. A motion to table (kill) the amendment failed 59-36 and the amendment itself passed on a voice vote. Biden voted against tabling, i.e. a vote for allowing all travel.

Obama Statements on Cuba

From Obama web site

Promote Democracy in Cuba and Throughout the Hemisphere: Barack Obama will support democracy that is strong and sustainable in the day to day lives of the people of the Americas. In the case of Cuba, he will empower our best ambassadors of freedom by allowing unlimited Cuban-American family travel and remittances to the island. Using aggressive and principled bilateral diplomacy he will also send an important message: if a post-Fidel government takes significant steps toward democracy, beginning with freeing all political prisoners, the U.S. is prepared to take steps to normalize relations and ease the embargo that has governed relations between our countries for the last five decades. Throughout the hemisphere, Obama will increase support for the building blocks of durable democracies—strong legislatures, independent judiciaries, free press, vibrant civil society, honest police forces, religious freedom, and the rule of law.


Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: Renewing U.S. Leadership in the Americas at program organized by Cuban American National Foundation

Miami, FL | May 23, 2008

It is my privilege to join in this week's Independence Day celebration, and in honoring those who have stood up with courage and conviction for Cuban liberty. I'm going to take this opportunity to speak about Cuba, and also U.S. policy toward the Americas more broadly.

We meet here united in our unshakeable commitment to freedom. And it is fitting that we reaffirm that commitment here in Miami.

In many ways, Miami stands as a symbol of hope for what's possible in the Americas. Miami's promise of liberty and opportunity has drawn generations of immigrants to these shores, sometimes with nothing more than the clothes on their back. It was a similar hope that drew my own father across an ocean, in search of the same promise that our dreams need not be deferred because of who we are, what we look like, or where we come from.

Here, in Miami, that promise can join people together. We take common pride in a vibrant and diverse democracy, and a hard-earned prosperity. We find common pleasure in the crack of the bat, in the rhythms of our music, and the ease of voices shifting from Spanish or Creole or Portuguese to English.

These bonds are built on a foundation of shared history in our hemisphere. Colonized by empires, we share stories of liberation. Confronted by our own imperfections, we are joined in a desire to build a more perfect union. Rich in resources, we have yet to vanquish poverty.

What all of us strive for is freedom as FDR described it. Political freedom. Religious freedom. But also freedom from want, and freedom from fear. At our best, the United States has been a force for these four freedoms in the Americas. But if we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that at times we've failed to engage the people of the region with the respect owed to a partner.

When George Bush was elected, he held out the promise that this would change. He raised the hopes of the region that our engagement would be sustained instead of piecemeal. He called Mexico our most important bilateral relationship, and pledged to make Latin America a "fundamental commitment" of his presidency. It seemed that a new 21st century era had dawned.

Almost eight years later, those high hopes have been dashed.

Since the Bush Administration launched a misguided war in Iraq, its policy in the Americas has been negligent toward our friends, ineffective with our adversaries, disinterested in the challenges that matter in peoples' lives, and incapable of advancing our interests in the region.

No wonder, then, that demagogues like Hugo Chavez have stepped into this vacuum. His predictable yet perilous mix of anti-American rhetoric, authoritarian government, and checkbook diplomacy offers the same false promise as the tried and failed ideologies of the past. But the United States is so alienated from the rest of the Americas that this stale vision has gone unchallenged, and has even made inroads from Bolivia to Nicaragua. And Chavez and his allies are not the only ones filling the vacuum. While the United States fails to address the changing realities in the Americas, others from Europe and Asia – notably China – have stepped up their own engagement. Iran has drawn closer to Venezuela, and just the other day Tehran and Caracas launched a joint bank with their windfall oil profits.

That is the record – the Bush record in Latin America – that John McCain has chosen to embrace. Senator McCain doesn't talk about these trends in our hemisphere because he knows that it's part of the broader Bush-McCain failure to address priorities beyond Iraq. The situation has changed in the Americas, but we've failed to change with it. Instead of engaging the people of the region, we've acted as if we can still dictate terms unilaterally. We have not offered a clear and comprehensive vision, backed up with strong diplomacy. We are failing to join the battle for hearts and minds. For far too long, Washington has engaged in outdated debates and stuck to tired blueprints on drugs and trade, on democracy and development -- even though they won't meet the tests of the future.

The stakes could not be higher. It is time for us to recognize that the future security and prosperity of the United States is fundamentally tied to the future of the Americas. If we don't turn away from the policies of the past, then we won't be able to shape the future. The Bush Administration has offered no clear vision for this future, and neither has John McCain.

So we face a clear choice in this election. We can continue as a bystander, or we can lead the hemisphere into the 21st century. And when I am President of the United States, we will choose to lead.

It's time for a new alliance of the Americas. After eight years of the failed policies of the past, we need new leadership for the future. After decades pressing for top-down reform, we need an agenda that advances democracy, security, and opportunity from the bottom up. So my policy towards the Americas will be guided by the simple principle that what's good for the people of the Americas is good for the United States. That means measuring success not just through agreements among governments, but also through the hopes of the child in the favelas of Rio, the security for the policeman in Mexico City, and the answered cries of political prisoners heard from jails in Havana.

The first and most fundamental freedom that we must work for is political freedom. The United States must be a relentless advocate for democracy.

I grew up for a time in Indonesia. It was a society struggling to achieve meaningful democracy. Power could be undisguised and indiscriminate. Too often, power wore a uniform, and was unaccountable to the people. Some still had good reason to fear a knock on the door.

There is no place for this kind of tyranny in this hemisphere. There is no place for any darkness that would shut out the light of liberty. Here we must heed the words of Dr. King, written from his own jail cell: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Throughout my entire life, there has been injustice in Cuba. Never, in my lifetime, have the people of Cuba known freedom. Never, in the lives of two generations of Cubans, have the people of Cuba known democracy. This is the terrible and tragic status quo that we have known for half a century – of elections that are anything but free or fair; of dissidents locked away in dark prison cells for the crime of speaking the truth. I won't stand for this injustice, you won't stand for this injustice, and together we will stand up for freedom in Cuba.

Now I know what the easy thing is to do for American politicians. Every four years, they come down to Miami, they talk tough, they go back to Washington, and nothing changes in Cuba. That's what John McCain did the other day. He joined the parade of politicians who make the same empty promises year after year, decade after decade. Instead of offering a strategy for change, he chose to distort my position, embrace George Bush's, and continue a policy that's done nothing to advance freedom for the Cuban people. That's the political posture that John McCain has chosen, and all it shows is that you can't take his so-called straight talk seriously.

My policy toward Cuba will be guided by one word: Libertad. And the road to freedom for all Cubans must begin with justice for Cuba's political prisoners, the rights of free speech, a free press and freedom of assembly; and it must lead to elections that are free and fair.

Now let me be clear. John McCain's been going around the country talking about how much I want to meet with Raul Castro, as if I'm looking for a social gathering. That's never what I've said, and John McCain knows it. After eight years of the disastrous policies of George Bush, it is time to pursue direct diplomacy, with friend and foe alike, without preconditions. There will be careful preparation. We will set a clear agenda. And as President, I would be willing to lead that diplomacy at a time and place of my choosing, but only when we have an opportunity to advance the interests of the United States, and to advance the cause of freedom for the Cuban people.

I will never, ever, compromise the cause of liberty. And unlike John McCain, I would never, ever, rule out a course of action that could advance the cause of liberty. We've heard enough empty promises from politicians like George Bush and John McCain. I will turn the page.

It's time for more than tough talk that never yields results. It's time for a new strategy. There are no better ambassadors for freedom than Cuban Americans. That's why I will immediately allow unlimited family travel and remittances to the island. It's time to let Cuban Americans see their mothers and fathers, their sisters and brothers. It's time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime.

I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice: if you take significant steps toward democracy, beginning with the freeing of all political prisoners, we will take steps to begin normalizing relations. That's the way to bring about real change in Cuba – through strong, smart and principled diplomacy.

And we know that freedom across our hemisphere must go beyond elections. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez is a democratically elected leader. But we also know that he does not govern democratically. He talks of the people, but his actions just serve his own power. Yet the Bush Administration's blustery condemnations and clumsy attempts to undermine Chavez have only strengthened his hand.

We've heard plenty of talk about democracy from George Bush, but we need steady action. We must put forward a vision of democracy that goes beyond the ballot box. We should increase our support for strong legislatures, independent judiciaries, free press, vibrant civil society, honest police forces, religious freedom, and the rule of law. That is how we can support democracy that is strong and sustainable not just on an election day, but in the day to day lives of the people of the Americas.

That is what is so badly needed – not just in Cuba and Venezuela – but just to our southeast in Haiti as well. The Haitian people have suffered too long under governments that cared more about their own power than their peoples' progress and prosperity. It's time to press Haiti's leaders to bridge the divides between them. And it's time to invest in the economic development that must underpin the security that the Haitian people lack. And that is why the second part of my agenda will be advancing freedom from fear in the Americas.

For too many people in our hemisphere, security is absent from their daily lives. And for far too long, Washington has been trapped in a conventional thinking about Latin America and the Caribbean. From the right, we hear about violent insurgents. From the left, we hear about paramilitaries. This is the predictable debate that seems frozen in time from the 1980s. You're either soft on Communism or soft on death squads. And it has more to do with the politics of Washington than beating back the perils that so many people face in the Americas.

The person living in fear of violence doesn't care if they're threatened by a right-wing paramilitary or a left-wing terrorist; they don't care if they're being threatened by a drug cartel or a corrupt police force. They just care that they're being threatened, and that their families can't live and work in peace. That is why there will never be true security unless we focus our efforts on targeting every source of fear in the Americas. That's what I'll do as President of the United States.

For the people of Colombia – who have suffered at the hands of killers of every sort – that means battling all sources of violence. When I am President, we will continue the Andean Counter-Drug Program, and update it to meet evolving challenges. We will fully support Colombia's fight against the FARC. We'll work with the government to end the reign of terror from right wing paramilitaries. We will support Colombia's right to strike terrorists who seek safe-haven across its borders. And we will shine a light on any support for the FARC that comes from neighboring governments. This behavior must be exposed to international condemnation, regional isolation, and – if need be – strong sanctions. It must not stand.

We must also make clear our support for labor rights, and human rights, and that means meaningful support for Colombia's democratic institutions. We've neglected this support – especially for the rule of law – for far too long. In every country in our hemisphere – including our own – governments must develop the tools to protect their people.

Because if we've learned anything in our history in the Americas, it's that true security cannot come from force alone. Not as long as there are towns in Mexico where drug kingpins are more powerful than judges. Not as long as there are children who grow up afraid of the police. Not as long as drugs and gangs move north across our border, while guns and cash move south in return.

This nexus is a danger to every country in the region – including our own. Thousands of Central American gang members have been arrested across the United States, including here in south Florida. There are national emergencies facing Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Mexican drug cartels are terrorizing cities and towns. President Calderon was right to say that enough is enough. We must support Mexico's effort to crack down. But we must stand for more than force – we must support the rule of law from the bottom up. That means more investments in prevention and prosecutors; in community policing and an independent judiciary.

I agree with my friend, Senator Dick Lugar – the Merida Initiative does not invest enough in Central America, where much of the trafficking and gang activity begins. And we must press further south as well. It's time to work together to find the best practices that work across the hemisphere, and to tailor approaches to fit each country. That's why I will direct my Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security to sit down with all their counterparts in the Americas during my first year in office. We'll strive for unity of effort. We'll provide the resources, and ask that every country do the same. And we'll tie our support to clear benchmarks for drug seizures, corruption prosecutions, crime reduction, and kingpins busted.

We have to do our part. And that is why a core part of this effort will be a northbound-southbound strategy. We need tougher border security, and a renewed focus on busting up gangs and traffickers crossing our border. But we must address the material heading south as well. As President, I'll make it clear that we're coming after the guns, we're coming after the money laundering, and we're coming after the vehicles that enable this crime. And we'll crack down on the demand for drugs in our own communities, and restore funding for drug task forces and the COPS program. We must win the fights on our own streets if we're going to secure the region.

The third part of my agenda is advancing freedom from want, because there is much that we can do to advance opportunity for the people of the Americas.

That begins with understanding what's changed in Latin America, and what hasn't. Enormous wealth has been created, and financial markets are far stronger than a decade ago. Brazil's economy has grown by leaps and bounds, and perhaps the second richest person in the world is a Mexican. Yet while there has been great economic progress, there is still back-breaking inequality. Despite a growing middle class, 100 million people live on less than two dollars a day, and 40 percent of Latin Americans live in poverty. This feeds everything from drugs, to migration, to support for leaders that appeal to the poor without delivering on their promises.

That is why the United States must stand for growth in the Americas from the bottom up. That begins at home, with comprehensive immigration reform. That means securing our border and passing tough employer enforcement laws. It means bringing 12 million unauthorized immigrants out of the shadows. But it also means working with Mexico, Central America and others to support bottom up development to our south.

For two hundred years, the United States has made it clear that we won't stand for foreign intervention in our hemisphere. But every day, all across the Americas, there is a different kind of struggle – not against foreign armies, but against the deadly threat of hunger and thirst, disease and despair. That is not a future that we have to accept – not for the child in Port au Prince or the family in the highlands of Peru. We can do better. We must do better.

We cannot ignore suffering to our south, nor stand for the globalization of the empty stomach. Responsibility rests with governments in the region, but we must do our part. I will substantially increase our aid to the Americas, and embrace the Millennium Development Goals of halving global poverty by 2015. We'll target support to bottom-up growth through micro financing, vocational training, and small enterprise development. It's time for the United States to once again be a beacon of hope and a helping hand.

Trade must be part of this solution. But I strongly reject the Bush-McCain view that any trade deal is a good deal. We cannot accept trade that enriches those at the top of the ladder while cutting out the rungs at the bottom. It's time to understand that the goal of our trade policy must be trade that works for all people in all countries. Like Central America's bishops, I opposed CAFTA because the needs of workers were not adequately addressed. I supported the Peru Free Trade Agreement because there were binding labor and environmental provisions. That's the kind of trade we need – trade that lifts up workers, not just a corporate bottom line.

There's nothing protectionist about demanding that trade spreads the benefits of globalization, instead of steering them to special interests while we short-change workers at home and abroad. If John McCain believes – as he said the other day – that 80 percent of Americans think we're on the wrong track because we haven't passed free trade with Colombia, then he's totally out of touch with the American people. And if John McCain thinks that we can paper over our failure of leadership in the region by occasionally passing trade deals with friendly governments, then he's out of touch with the people of the Americas.

And we have to look for ways to grow our economies and deepen integration beyond trade deals. That's what China is doing right now, as they build bridges from Beijing to Brazil, and expand their investments across the region. If the United States does not step forward, we risk being left behind. And that is why we must seize a unique opportunity to lead the region toward a more secure and sustainable energy future.

All of us feel the impact of the global energy crisis. In the short-term, it means an ever-more expensive addiction to oil, which bankrolls petro-powered authoritarianism around the globe, and drives up the cost of everything from a tank of gas to dinner on the table. And in the long-term, few regions are more imperiled by the stronger storms, higher floodwaters, and devastating droughts that could come with global warming. Whole crops could disappear, putting the food supply at risk for hundreds of millions.

While we share this risk, we also share the resources to do something about it. That's why I'll bring together the countries of the region in a new Energy Partnership for the Americas. We need to go beyond bilateral agreements. We need a regional approach. Together, we can forge a path toward sustainable growth and clean energy.

Leadership must begin at home. That's why I've proposed a cap and trade system to limit our carbon emissions and to invest in alternative sources of energy. We'll allow industrial emitters to offset a portion of this cost by investing in low carbon energy projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. And we'll increase research and development across the Americas in clean coal technology, in the next generation of sustainable biofuels not taken from food crops, and in wind and solar energy.

We'll enlist the World Bank, the Organization of American States, and the Inter-American Development Bank to support these investments, and ensure that these projects enhance natural resources like land, wildlife, and rain forests. We'll finally enforce environmental standards in our trade deals. We'll establish a program for the Department of Energy and our laboratories to share technology with countries across the region. We'll assess the opportunities and risks of nuclear power in the hemisphere by sitting down with Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Chile. And we'll call on the American people to join this effort through an Energy Corps of engineers and scientists who will go abroad to help develop clean energy solutions.

This is the unique role that the United States can play. We can offer more than the tyranny of oil. We can learn from the progress made in a country like Brazil, while making the Americas a model for the world. We can offer leadership that serves the common prosperity and common security of the entire region.

This is the promise of FDR's Four Freedoms that we must realize. But only if we recognize that in the 21st century, we cannot treat Latin America and the Caribbean as a junior partner, just as our neighbors to the south should reject the bombast of authoritarian bullies. An alliance of the Americas will only succeed if it is founded on a bedrock of mutual respect. It's time to turn the page on the arrogance in Washington and the anti-Americanism across the region that stands in the way of progress. It's time to listen to one another and to learn from one another.

To fulfill this promise, my Administration won't wait six years to proclaim a "year of engagement." We will pursue aggressive, principled, and sustained diplomacy in the Americas from Day One. I will reinstate a Special Envoy for the Americas in my White House who will work with my full support. But we'll also expand the Foreign Service, and open more consulates in the neglected regions of the Americas. We'll expand the Peace Corps, and ask more young Americans to go abroad to deepen the trust and the ties among our people.

And we must tap the vast resource of our own immigrant population to advance each part of our agenda. One of the troubling aspects of our recent politics has been the anti-immigrant sentiment that has flared up, and been exploited by politicians come election time. We need to understand that immigration – when done legally – is a source of strength for this country. Our diversity is a source of strength for this country. When we join together – black, white, Hispanic, Asian, and native American – there is nothing that we can't accomplish. Todos somos Americanos!

Together, we can choose the future over the past.

At a time when our leadership has suffered, I have no doubts about whether we can succeed. If the United States makes its case; if we meet those who doubt us or deride us head-on; if we draw on our best tradition of standing up for those Four Freedoms – then we can shape our future instead of being shaped by it. We can renew our leadership in the hemisphere. We can win the support not just of governments, but of the people of the Americas. But only if we leave the bluster behind. Only if we are strong and steadfast; confident and consistent.

Jose Marti once wrote. "It is not enough to come to the defense of freedom with epic and intermittent efforts when it is threatened at moments that appear critical. Every moment is critical for the defense of freedom."

Every moment is critical. And this must be our moment. Freedom. Opportunity. Dignity. These are not just the values of the United States – they are the values of the Americas. They were the cause of Washington's infantry and Bolivar's cavalry; of Marti's pen and Hidalgo's church bells.

That legacy is our inheritance. That must be our cause. And now must be the time that we turn the page to a new chapter in the story of the America.

McCain Statements on Cuba

Thursday, January 24, 2008

John McCain

The Candidate submitted the following statement to the Cuban American National Foundation in lieu of questionnaire.

John McCain supports the Cuban people’s quest to be free and the U.S. economic embargo on the Cuban dictatorship to deny the Castro regime the resources to continue its repression.

We should increase support for the growing human rights, dissident, and civil society movement in Cuba to promote a peaceful transition to democracy.

We should reject concessions to the Castro dictatorship until democracy is restored, and Cubans are allowed to elect their own leaders and choose their own destiny.

The U.S. should continue to pressure the Cuban regime to release all political prisoners unconditionally and to hold free and fair elections. Unless these conditions are met, lifting the economic embargo would only serve to strengthen the Castro dictatorship and delay Cuba’s inevitable transition to democracy. John McCain favors U.S. Government funding for political prisoners and their families, human rights activists, and others seeking a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba.


Remarks by John McCain on Cuban Independence Day

By Press Office

May 20, 2008

ARLINGTON, VA -- U.S. Senator John McCain delivered the following remarks as prepared for delivery in Miami, Florida, today at 11:00 a.m. EDT:

Today, on Cuba's Independence Day, we have occasion to celebrate the rich cultural heritage and deep-rooted traditions of the Cuban people. Cuban Americans, many of whom have ascended to the heights of business, government, and the arts, have enriched and enlivened our country. In every field, and in states across America, they bring to our communities their custom of hard work and personal initiative. And for many of these patriotic individuals, while their lives and work are here in the United States, a bit of Cuba will always endure in their hearts.

So must it be for all Americans who cherish those freedoms we so often take for granted at home. For today is not a cause for celebration alone. Those inspired freedom fighters who secured Cuba's independence over 100 years ago could hardly know that their descendants would be engaged in a struggle for freedom and democracy a century later. And yet today, the Cuban people continue to live under tyranny, and their struggle goes on.

It is not a fruitless struggle, not by any means. One day, America will again have warm relations with a Cuban government that represents the sovereign will of its people, one that respects their fundamental human and political rights. One day, Cuba will be an important ally in advancing democracy throughout our hemisphere. Make no mistake: Cuba is destined to be free.

Today, as so many of you know too well, the situation is very different. Fidel Castro has passed the titles of power to his brother in a fashion suited more for a personal fiefdom than to a government purporting to represent that proud and dynamic people. A few recent news articles have labeled as "reforms" the smattering of small changes that have taken place since Raul Castro has formally taken charge. Such characterizations must sound quite cynical to the political prisoners that fill Cuban jails, to the millions who suffer under poverty and repression, and to all those who wish to choose their leaders, not suffer under them. The Castro regime enforces strict limits against freedom of expression, of association, of assembly, of movement, of speech. Last year, as many as 5,000 citizens served sentences for the vague crime of "dangerousness."

Yet tyranny will not forever endure, and as President, I will not passively await the day when the Cuban people enjoy the blessings of freedom and democracy. It is in our national interest to support their aspirations and oppose those of the Castro regime, one that harbors fugitives from U.S. justice, expresses unrelenting hostility to America, and shoots down unarmed civilian aircraft. I wish the other presidential candidates felt similarly. Just a few years ago, Senator Obama had a very clear view on Cuba. When asked in a questionnaire about his policy toward Cuba, he answered: "I believe that normalization of relations with Cuba would help the oppressed and poverty-stricken Cuban people while setting the stage for a more democratic government once Castro inevitably leaves the scene." Now Senator Obama has shifted positions and says he only favors easing the embargo, not lifting it. He also wants to sit down unconditionally for a presidential meeting with Raul Castro. These steps would send the worst possible signal to Cuba's dictators – there is no need to undertake fundamental reforms, they can simply wait for a unilateral change in US policy. I believe we should give hope to the Cuban people, not to the Castro regime. My administration will press the Cuban regime to release all political prisoners unconditionally, to legalize all political parties, labor unions, and free media, and to schedule internationally monitored elections. The embargo must stay in place until these basic elements of democratic society are met.

Maintaining the embargo is, however, just one element of a broader approach my administration would make to the people of Cuba. I would provide more material assistance and moral support to the courageous human rights activists who bravely defy the regime every day, and increase Radio and TV Marti and other means to communicate directly with the Cuban people. My Justice Department would vigorously prosecute Cuban officials implicated in the murder of Americans, drug trafficking, and other crimes. While our Cuba policy will not always be in accord with that of our hemispheric and European partners, my administration will begin an active dialogue with them to develop a plan for post-Castro Cuba, a plan that will spark rapid change and a new awakening in that country. The Cuban people have waited long enough.

As we work with our hemispheric partners, we must be clear about the kind of leadership America seeks to provide. For decades, in Republican and Democratic administrations alike, the United States has treated Latin America as a junior partner rather than as a neighbor, like a little brother rather than as an equal. As a resident of a state that borders Mexico, I am acutely aware of the extraordinary contributions that our neighbors make to the United States – from trade to culture to a commitment to democracy and human rights. Latin America today is increasingly vital to the fortunes of the United States, and Americans north and south share a common geography and a common destiny. It is time to embrace this destiny for the benefit of all our peoples.

We have made progress toward this vision by expanding the benefits of free commerce, through NAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and our free trade agreements with Peru and Chile. But the progress has stalled; our longstanding bipartisan commitment to hemispheric prosperity is crumbling. We see this most vividly in Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's opposition to the free trade agreement with Colombia. The failure of the Congress to take up and approve this agreement is a reminder why 80 percent of Americans think we are on the wrong track. Congress can find time to pass a pork-filled farm bill, but it cannot stir itself to support a key ally and further American prosperity.

The Colombia FTA would benefit American workers and consumers – the U.S. International Trade Administration estimates that over $1 billion in tariffs have been imposed on U.S. exports to Colombia since the FTA was signed, tariffs that would be eliminated once the agreement takes effect. Here in Florida, trade has created new markets for the Sunshine State's world-class produce, manufactured goods, and professional services. Florida's exports to Canada and Mexico rose by some 208 percent since NAFTA was enacted, and its exports to Chile grew 99 percent in the first four years of its free trade agreement. Colombia today stands as Florida's fifth largest export market – Florida exported $2.1 billion worth of goods there last year – and now the Colombians are offering to drop their barriers to American goods. Yet Senators Obama and Clinton oppose the agreement, wishing to retreat behind protectionist walls and undermine a key hemispheric ally.

The strategic implications of rejecting this agreement are profound. Colombia is a beacon of hope in a region where the Castro brothers, Hugo Chavez, and others are actively seeking to thwart economic progress and democracy. Delaying approval of the Colombian Free Trade Agreement will not create one American job or start one American business, but it will divide us from our Colombian partners at a time when they are battling the FARC terrorists and their allied drug cartels. It will undercut America's standing with our allies in a critical region and across the world, at a moment when rebuilding these relationships has never been more important. It will set back the goal of deepening relations with our neighbors to the south and enhancing the stability, peace, and prosperity of our hemisphere.

If I am elected president, the United States will not bow to the special interests seeking to block progress. Instead, we will forge a new policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean Basin, one founded on peace and security, shared prosperity, democracy and freedom, and mutual respect. We will work to prevent Venezuela and Bolivia from taking the same road to failure Castro has paved for Cuba, and we will broaden and strengthen ties with key states like Brazil, Peru, and Chile. We will make clear to all countries in the region that if they share our values of freedom and openness, they can count on us as a friend. We will not abandon our partners to demagogues, drug lords, and despair, but expand the benefits of security, trade and prosperity to all.

My vision embodies the interests and the values of America and seeks the betterment of all people, everywhere in our hemisphere. And it is a vision that includes the people of Cuba.

Courageous men found their calling at the beginning of the last century in winning for Cuba its independence. And those brave men and women who stand up for their rights today will, one day soon, win for Cuba its freedom. When they do, they will enjoy not only the fruits of their own liberation, but also the firm and fast friendship of all Americans who have stood with them throughout the years of struggle. On this Cuban Independence Day, let us take a moment to pray that Cubans everywhere can one day soon enjoy the liberty for which their forefathers fought.