Dante Fascell on U.S.-Cuba Policy
Democratic Congressman Dante Fascell honorably served the United States through his distinguished career in the House of Representatives. Fascell’s tenure in the House as one of Florida’s Representatives lasted from 1955 until his retirement in 1993. He championed the interests of the U.S. and justice above partisan politics and reelection campaigns. His passion for and immense knowledge of U.S. foreign policy led him to become chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. In this position he focused on U.S. policy towards Latin America, championing freedom and human rights. For his dedication to just causes at home and around the world, President Clinton awarded Fascell the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.
Fascell was one of the first politicians to recognize the totalitarian nature of the Castro regime and the danger of Cuba’s increasing closeness to the Soviet Union. He chastised those in Congress who promoted appeasement as the best policy to deal with the fledgling dictatorship 90 miles from U.S. shores. Fascell believed liberalizing U.S. – Cuba policy would be antithetical to promoting human rights on the island.
Today, many politicians believe the U.S. should liberalize its Cuba policy. For this reason, Fascell’s wisdom and insights are valuable to the current political discussions. Various quotes from Fascell, capturing his perspective on U.S. – Cuba policy are below. (1) These quotes are taken from Fascell’s speeches during his last year in office to most closely reflect today’s geopolitical realities.
Fascell on supporting democracy in Cuba:
“As I look around the world…I realize that Cuba joins an ever shrinking number of countries whose governments continue to deny their peoples’ hopes for liberty and democracy. Yet, while the number of repressive governments may be dwindling, far too many people still live under the yoke of tyranny. In looking toward the future, it is imperative that the United States be vigilant in its support for democratic change everywhere, not just where it is politically convenient.” (2)
Fascell on embargoes:
“Are embargoes effective? It is my personal view they are not, but I support the embargo against Cuba. Why? I have supported embargoes all over the world as a matter of U.S. policy because it becomes important at times to make a statement of what your policy is without regard to whether or not it is effective….But there is an element of policy here that needs to be…restated. And that is that we do not like what Castro did in Cuba. We do not like what he is doing, and we do not like the future of Cuba under Castro. It is that simple.” (3)
Fascell on trade with Cuba:
“If Castro just wants trade, he has  plenty of countries to trade with. His problem is he has no currency. So, I do not know why in the world we should be anxious to trade with him.” (4)
Fascell on the need for comprehensive restrictions and isolation of the Castro regime:
“I’m delighted to cosponsor this bill, The Cuba Democracy Act…. In an effort to both formulate policy of the United States and to seek methods of…isolating and bringing about change…in Cuba….This legislation is more than a piece of paper setting down a policy of sanctions and embargoes and all of that, important as it is for implementation of isolation…particularly when [the Cuban government is] in such desperate need for hard cash to carry out their programs. But what it really does is sets down in legislation human values that people can understand and appreciate and are willing to fight and die for.” (5)
“We are trying to cast [the Cuba Democracy Act] as assistance for those people in Cuba who are really trying to take control of their own destiny, rather than as in the United States trying to impose a gringo solution on a Latin problem….[T]he embargo is…a clear statement of the concern and the regard the American people have for the rights of other peoples who are struggling against a common, repressive, authoritarian dictatorship which refuses to admit its failure.”
“If [the Cuban Democracy Act] doesn’t do anything else, absolutely nothing else, it will keep the people of this country and this government on the side of making the right moral judgment. The Cuban people have more courage and determination than we are giving them credit for.” (6)
Fascell on unilateral liberalization:
“There are those who have argued in good faith that our policy toward Castro has been too hostile, that we need to be more forthcoming, that we should take the first step. Well, I have supported such steps from time to time….But every time we have tried a unilateral positive approach to seek peaceful progress in Cuba we have been rudely rebuffed by Castro.” (7)
1) The quotes below are from: Suchlicki, Jaime, ed. Fascell on Cuba: Selected Speeches and Statements on the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro and U.S. – Cuban Relations. Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami. Coral Gables, FL. 2001.
2) Speech given on the House floor. October 29, 1992.
3) Report given as Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs. March 18, 1992.
5) Speech given on February 5, 1992.
6) Report. March 18, 1992.
7) Speech given on September 22, 1992.
*Vanessa Lopez is a Research Associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami. She is currently pursuing a Law Degree at Emory University in Atlanta.