I continue to be fascinated with Barack Obama’s speech in Miami on Friday, or rather to the reactions it has elicited. So I’ve decided to take a closer look at the text of speech, specifically the parts about Cuba, and have a few questions for the Senator.
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.
Senator, join the club. I too have lived my entire life in freedom while those in Cuba suffered under oppression. The difference is that I’ve been thinking about it for a lot longer than you have been running for president. Still I must congratulate you on recognizing something that many in your party have refused to recognize. That’s admirable but it doesn’t change the fact that you are a Barry come lately to the issue of Cuban freedom.
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.
Yes it’s true that politicians tell Cuban-Americans what they want to hear, particularly around election time. I guess my question to you is what makes you any different? Why should I believe your promises? You say that President Bush’s policy has “done nothing to advance freedom for the Cuban people” yet you don’t specify how your policy would be appreciably different.
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.
Nobody can argue with that goal, not even President Bush who reiterated such a goal in the White House on Wednesday. So again the question is how will you achieve it?
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.
Well you have said that you would meet raul castro without preconditions and now you are hedging by introducing the idea of “careful preparation”. Can you explain exactly what the differences are between preconditions and “careful preparation”? And I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that it’s not just president Bush that refuses to meet the castro brothers, 9 previous presidents also felt that such a meeting would bestow undue legitimacy on that regime which you now seem to realize is a terrible dictatorship.
Consider the fact that the President of the United States, the leader of the free world would be sitting across the table from the man whose face is circled in this picture:
Yes, that’s your would-be negotiating partner strapping a blindfold on a man who is about to become acquainted with “revolutionary justice” on the wrong end of a firing squad. Are you going to convince this man who is now in his late 70s to abandon his entire life’s work implementing the totalitarian system which you now seek to change? Pardon me if I’m doubtful that your considerable oratory powers could be so convincing.
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.
Yes but how? As I said pardon my skepticism about talking murderous tyrants out of their murderous ways. Is there some other magic arrow in your quiver?
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.
You will immediately revert to a policy we had four years ago. Is that the cure for Cuban communism? Really? Why should we think that such a tweak will lead to the goal of an end to the repression and bring about democracy? How does making families less dependent on the castro regime bring us closer to democracy? I didn’t go to Harvard so I’m a little slow. Seriously, how does that work? U.S. policy regarding family travel and remittances has been more liberal in the past than than it is today. That didn’t work then, why should it work now? Is that the “new” strategy?
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.
First of all Senator, the embargo has been codified into U.S. law. Removing it would require an act of congress, so saying you’ll keep the embargo is a little disingenuous. Besides, in 2004 you opposed the embargo. Now, speaking to an audience of Cuban-Americans you say will not remove the embargo. Isn’t that suspiciously like those politicians you claim to be different than? The fact is that the embargo, as it currently exists requires freedom of the political prisoners and steps towards democracy before sanctions can be lifted. Again I ask how your position is appreciably different than that of 10 presidents before you and your opponent?