A friend, John McAuliff, has a letter in the New York Times today in response to a very good editorial the Tims ran last week titled “Twilight of the Dictators: And a Chance for Cuba — and the U.S.”
McAuliff reminds that before Bush tightened restrictions on Cuba by executive order in 2004, non-tourist people-to-people initiatives were on the upswing. These were choked off by Bush.
I think that this represents the minimum base-line that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton should speak to when discussing taking US-Cuba relations a different direction. It’s one thing to talk about opening family-related travel and increasing the amount allowed in remittances of Cuban-American families to their relatives in Cuba. It’s another not to even talk about restoring what existed before George Bush began paying off the elders in Miami’s exile community for their role in manipulating Florida’s election results in 2000.
Hillary Clinton needs to do a serious “full policy review” of her Cuba position — and Obama needs to go farther than he already has. The benchmark that existed in 2003 should be a minimum start in this process.
An Approach to Cuba, 24 February 2008
Re “And a Chance for Cuba — and the U.S.” (editorial, Feb. 20):
You are correct. The best immediate way to support reform in Cuba is for the president to “loosen restrictions on cultural and academic exchanges and open the way for serious diplomatic contacts with Mr. Castro’s successors.”
The initial response of the leading presidential candidates to Fidel Castro’s retirement was not very different from that of President Bush. None have called for returning to nontourist people-to-people initiatives as flourished before 2004, not to mention restoring to all Americans our constitutional and human right of freedom to travel.
In a campaign focusing on change and rebuilding United States leadership in the world, there should be more attention to an anachronistic policy that is far simpler to fix than Iraq — with as great a benefit to our international reputation.
To his credit, Barack Obama has expressed readiness for unconditional negotiations with Raul Castro. Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain insist on the failed formula of making laudable American goals of human rights and democracy a precondition.
Two-thirds of Americans want to end travel restrictions and normalize relations. According to a recent G.A.O. report, 120,000 a year are voting with their feet and going to Cuba through third countries.
Executive Director, Fund for Reconciliation and Development
Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., Feb. 20, 2008
— Steve Clemons