Letter from the Congressional Cuba Democracy Caucus to President Obama

Washington, DC– Please find below the text of a letter sent by U.S. Congressmen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Kendrick Meek (D-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Robert Andrews (D-NJ), and Frank Pallone (D-NJ), on March 24, 2009, to President Barack Obama regarding U.S. policy toward the Cuban dictatorship. The Congressmen are members of the Congressional Cuba Democracy Caucus:

March 24, 2009

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:
As Members of the Congressional Cuba Democracy Caucus, who represent the overwhelming majority of Cuban Americans in the United States, we would like to briefly share with you some thoughts concerning U.S. Cuba policy.

Just 90 miles from our shores, extraordinary men and women are struggling daily against a brutal 50 year-old dictatorship and look to this great nation for solidarity. Your presidency comes at a decisive moment for Cuba. You will have an extraordinary opportunity to assist the Cuban people in finally achieving their freedom.

Cuba Measures in the FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriation Act

We agree with the interpretation of the general license for agricultural travel and the definition of cash-in-advance requiring payment before shipment from U.S. ports, as outlined in Secretary Timothy Geithner’s March 9, 2009 letters to U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Bob Menendez.

However, in regard to Cuban American travel, we are troubled by the explanation in the “Guidance on Implementation of Cuba Travel and Trade-Related Provisions of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009” that the general license grants “unlimited” lengths of stay in Cuba. We believe that this will serve to channel U.S. taxpayer dollars directly to the regime because retirees and Supplemental Security Income recipients could remain on the island indefinitely while collecting U.S. taxpayer-provided benefits.

U.S. Sanctions

The goal of freedom for the Cuban people has long been a U.S. policy of state, supported by Administrations and Congresses of both political parties. This U.S. policy of state becomes more important each day with the serious illness of Fidel Castro, the ultimate power in the very personalized totalitarian Cuban dyarchy. In a bipartisan fashion, Administrations and Congresses have insisted that before the U.S. makes any concessions to the Cuban regime, all political prisoners must be freed, all political parties, the free press and labor unions legalized, and internationally supervised elections scheduled. Any easing of sanctions, without demanding any concessions lessening the oppression of the people by the regime, will serve to strengthen the dictatorship and demoralize the Cuban people.

Aid to the Pro-Democracy Movement

As you will recall, Congress, by strong bi-partisan majorities, recently appropriated a significant increase in U.S. aid to the pro-democracy movement in Cuba. Congress has also consistently supported funding for Radio and T.V. Marti, which provide the Cuban people with uncensored information that the regime attempts to block, and which also provide pro-democracy activists a vehicle to share their messages throughout the island.

Congress was very clear in its intent that the United States should increase aid to the pro-democracy movement inside Cuba. We look forward to working with you to make certain that U.S. assistance reaches the pro-democracy movement in an efficient and expeditious manner. We also look forward to working with you to make certain that Radio and T.V. Marti continue to be funded and improved to better serve the U.S. national interest in a democratic transition for the people of Cuba.

The International Community

Too many in the international community are seeking to assist the Cuban dyarchy in its goal of obtaining unilateral concessions from the United States and succeed in its attempt at absolutist succession once Fidel Castro dies. It is critically important for the international community to receive a clear message that the Obama Administration stands firmly and clearly on behalf of a genuine democratic transition in Cuba, and will not grant the Cuban dictatorship any unilateral concessions. All our friends in the international community should be urged by your Administration to join the U.S. in demanding free, multi-party elections for Cuba.

Cuba’s Political Prisoners

The Cuban dictatorship will attempt to use political prisoners as a bargaining tool with your Administration. Please recall how the regime has used political prisoners in the past in this manner, only to detain hundreds more once its immediate goals were reached.

We will continue to do all we can to bring to light the inhuman conditions suffered by Cuba’s political prisoners and to call for their unconditional release. Your solidarity and advocacy on their behalf is critical, and it can serve as inspiration, not only for the hundreds of thousands of patriots who have been incarcerated for their beliefs, but for the entire Cuban nation.

We would look forward to joining you in a strong demonstration of support for Cuba’s freedom.

Sincerely,

Lincoln Diaz-Balart
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Kendrick Meek
Mario Diaz-Balart
Albio Sires
Robert Andrews
Frank Pallone

8 thoughts on “Letter from the Congressional Cuba Democracy Caucus to President Obama”

  1. by insisting on being obstinate and demanding the whole bowl of wax before conceding a single inch to Cuba just means Obama can ignore us since everyone on the planet (except us) knows that free elections are about as likely as Hugo winning a Nobel Prize in Physics.

    Before I get bashed let me reiterate that I know Cuba is run by lying, scheming murderers eager to stiff anyone and everyone. I also know that it is not in our nation (that’s the US by the way) best interests are not served by appearing to abuse a tiny island nation. I should also note that I don’t agree this is in fact the case but once it comes to foreign policy perception is oftentimes reality.

    I’m just saying the letter is eloquent, principled and yet totally counterproductive.

  2. Cardinal,

    “The whole bowl of wax”? How about a simple gesture? Is that too much to ask before we extend billions of dollars and millions of tourists to a corrupt dictatorship. You can’t have a negotiation with a party that doesn’t want to concede anything. The U.S. has a lot to concede and it can do it piecemeal. But where’s the gesture from the regime that would justify it?

    Counterproductive would be to sit at a poker table across from your adversary and, before the first card is dealt, push all your chips across the table to him and then say “lets play cards.” He’d look at you and say, “why? You just gave me all your money which is what I wanted. Now that I have it, there’s no reason to play the game.”

    Cardinal, I still don’t know what the deal is with you. You’re obviously not dumb, so I can’t see what your mental block is on this. Look at what Cuba has done to its biggest partners in the western world, Canada and Spain. It hasn’t stopped berating those countries. The idea that playing nice will make 50 years of bad behavior go away is extremely naive. You can’t give the reward before the desired action. That’s called negative reinforcement and gives the regime reason to believe that it literally can do anything it wants. What happens when lift the embargo and six months later there’s a huge crackdown on the island? Don’t tell me we can bring sanctions back. Once that genie comes out of the bottle it ain’t going back in.

  3. “You can’t have a negotiation with a party that doesn’t want to concede anything.” As much as I think the embargo does little to advance freedom in Cuba, I think Henry has hit the nail on the head. The Cuban government has never offered anything that any American politician could point to as a meaningful concession in exchange for lifting the embargo. So long as that is the case, status quo.

  4. Henry – I hate to argue with you because you are right. I agree that they haven’t given an inch and are unlikely too. I just think we need a better PR effort in terms of what we offer. We know we aren’t going to get elections so give us everyone who has a visa to come to the US an exit visa. Or even eliminate the need for an exit visa. I’m on your side more than you know. I just feel that we dedicate too much of our fight on the embargo and while morally I can justify it politically and economically I can’t.

    I want to get past the embargo fight so people outside of the US will stop talking about how we abuse the poor little Cubans and expose the regime for what it is. You and I know the truth but the rest of the world doesn’t care no matter how loud cry or how hard we try to educate it all they harp on is the effing embargo.

    I’m not a leftist who wants to help Fidel…I am not a libertarian that believes the market solves all. I am a Cuban-American who is tired of his community getting beat up for a policy that did it’s job for 40+ years but needs to be modified. As long as we talk embargo Fidel wins.

  5. I agree that markets have an amazing ability to do things that other economic models cannot. But the problem is that the market has to be created in Cuba. Cuba has proven that it can sustain trade with market economies (really mixed economies) and still maintain centralized planned economy within the island. We can’t make Cuba into a market economy anymore than we can hold a democratic election. The embargo continues to be THE issue because it’s only leverage we have. It’s not a lot, it’s full of holes, I know that. But it’s all we got. Surrendering the embargo does nothing bring Cuba closer to capitalism much less democracy. Keeping the embargo keeps pressure on Cuba that if it wants something it has to give something in return. What we’re asking for shouldn’t be that hard for a leader to give, his own people are the ones that would benefit. But the leaders in Cuba don’t give a fuck about the people. So embargo or no embargo the regime will continue until something breaks the gridlock. A coup, a popular uprising, international pressure, etc.

    Removing the embargo doesn’t “remove an excuse” and it doesn’t make the exile message any more clear and it doesn’t make the political prisoners any more free. That’s fairies and pixie dust my friend.

    The regime on EOE+1 (end of embargo day one) will be exactly as the regime is today. I understand your desire for “another way” but we’ve reached a wall. The only way to get through it is to break through it. And you don’t do that by giving your shovels and pick axes away.

  6. Oh and do you think the people that beat up our community do it because of the embargo? Really? I don’t. I think the embargo is a talking point. We’re despised by the American left for two very important reasons:

    1. We’re the only important ethnic group that is reliably politically conservative and Republican. The plantation masters don’t like seeing free men that they feel should be slaves. Especially in an important state like Florida.

    2. We’re patriotic Americans. We believe in the American dream because we have lived it. We have done it without big brother’s help and Cuban Americans succeed at rates higher than natural born Americans do.

    We could end the embargo tomorrow and we’re not going to be the darlings of the Kossacks and such.

    Fidel wins when he gets to see the U.S. capitulate and perpetuate his regime while he’s still alive.

  7. Henry, you are correct all the way.

    Cardinal’s wrong reasoning matches that of the Peace Now crowd about Israel. People hate the Jews for the sport of it, or dignify their anti semitism by hating Israel, for the sport of it. To those who want to hate, nothing is an appeasement, nothing will influence them to our side.
    I have had my fill of people giving Israel advice because it is Israel’s fault that the world hates it and if only Israel would…

    You know what? When 9/11 happened, the question that made me angriest was, “Why do they hate us so?” I don’t care why they hate us; that behavior is unacceptable. A rapist hates women. I have no wish to analyze, understand motivations, or give concessions. He is wrong, that’s it. And anyone who can’t figure out that a rapist is wrong (or an Islamist, or a pro Castro, pro Che person), I want no parts of.
    Forget it Cardinal. The road to hell was paved ….

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