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Obama's new Cuba policy (bombing not included)

Barack Obama, who's admitted in recent interviews that he doesn't have much time to make an impression as a potential president, made another bold foreign policy proposal today. He suggested, in a Miami Herald op-ed piece, that the U.S. must change its policies toward Cuba and began easing restrictions.

The proposal, which, not surprisingly, drew immediate fire from his chief Democratic primary opponent, calls for easing the toughened 2004 Bush administration restrictions on visits to Cuba by American Cubans and remitting money back to families there. The president claimed at the time the funds strengthened the Fidel Castro regime.

Obama says this country needs a fresh approach to Cuba as it nears a post-Castro era that exposes Cubans to American freedoms and prosperity. An Obama administration would lift the sanctions. "Cuban American connections to family in Cuba," Obama writes, "are not only a basic right in humanitarian terms, but also our best tool for helping to foster the beginnings of grass-roots democracy on the island."

"I will use aggressive and principled diplomacy to send an important message," he adds. "If a post-Fidel government begins opening Cuba to democratic change, the United States [the president working with Congress] is prepared to take steps to normalize relations and ease the embargo that has governed relations between our countries for the last five decades."

The article's theme is expected to be a major part of Obama's speech in Miami on...

Saturday at the Miami Dade County Auditorium, where President Reagan made a major anti-communist address in 1983.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has sought to portray the 45-year-old Obama as too inexperienced and naive to be president, immediately vowed to continue the present policies toward Cuba. "Until it is clear what type of policies might come with a new government," she said in a prepared statement, "we cannot talk about changes in U.S. policies toward Cuba."

Joe Biden has said he too supports the status quo. John Edwards today said he would lift family travel restrictions but not those on remittances. Chris Dodd also supports lifting limits on family travel while Dennis Kucinich would scrap the entire embargo.

Both Republicans Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani criticized the Obama plan, saying it would only help Castro. "We must not weaken our policy on Cuba until the Castro regime is dismantled, all political prisoners are freed and and Cuba transitions to free and fair elections," Romney said.

Mel Martinez, the Florida senator and chairman of the Republican National Committee, said, "It shows that he either didn't think it through very well or simply hasn't had enough experience on these tough foreign policy problems."

As for that oft-mentioned charge of inexperience, Obama points out in a recent New Hampshire interview that with his seven years in the Illinois Senate and two years in the U.S. Senate, he's been in elected office longer than either Clinton or Edwards.

The real political impact of the Cuba proposal in Florida is dubious since few Cuban Americans are Democrats. But the move could add to Obama's image as a fresh thinker. At a recent debate he said he would meet with dictators like Castro during his first year in office without preconditions.

Now, here's a little update to a previous Top of the Ticket item on an Obama encounter with Maggie North, a New Hampshire voter who expressed concern to him last week that by joining in the political fray attacking other Democrats, Obama was losing his uniqueness.

"Listen," Obama told reporters today, "I understand and am sympathetic to her view. And I do think that we've got to be careful not to fall into those habits. The way I try to balance in my own mind is we should respond rapidly and aggressively to attacks that are made, but our responses should be truthful."

Truthful? Another bold proposal for modern American politics.

--Andrew Malcolm

Comments () | Archives (9)

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"The president claimed at the time the funds strengthened the Fidel Castro regime." Well I was in Cuban on a humanitarian mission when Bush issued his executive order. I traveled legally on a Continental Airlines charter from Miami. If you would have seen the tears in the airport as elderly grandmothers wept as they said goodbye to their grandchildren and children, knowing that it would be years before they could return, and that the grandparents would probably not live that long, you would see it differently. The president's policy hurts individuals who are innocent.
It has apparently gone unnoticed in the press but soon after Vilma Castro Espin, the wife of acting leader Raul Castro (and god mother of the revolution) died, Raul Castro, on July 26, 2007, offered to open talks with the United States. The White House quickly rejected it stating something to the effect that it would only talk to democratically elected leaders. This leaves me puzzelled at the Bush Administration's foreign policies concerning non-democratic nations. What about Vietnam or China?
I believe in a consistent foreign policy and I believe in opening trade barriers. I am a Republican and do not support Obama. However I do not fall in line behind Mel Martinez either. I cannot figure out where The Club for Growth is on this one. But I know the United States was WRONG to hang up on Raul Castro. I also know that I am RIGHT.

While the candidates may differ on whether sanctions against Cuba should remain in place as a way of imposing our will , there is another consideration that seems to have escaped the attention of all but Kucinich and possibly Dodd and Obama.
The ciizens of virtually all nations in the world - all except those in the "home of the free" are free to visit Cuba. Does our constitution mean so little that we are willing to give up a basic right to which we are illegally denied?

Obama says
"I will use aggressive and principled diplomacy to send an important message," he adds. "If a post-Fidel government begins opening Cuba to democratic change, the United States [the president working with Congress] is prepared to take steps to normalize relations and ease the embargo that has governed relations between our countries for the last five decades."

What is the blodness here? Since JFK all presidents have said this. There is nothing new here. Obama should spell out how he is going to influence post-Fidel Gov to being opening Cuba to democratic change.

Why is this article appearing now? This is at least the second time an old article about Obama has appeared on this site "mysteriously." Oh well, Obama's ideas made sense then, and they still do.

(Ans: You may just be discovering this article now, but as the date on it shows, it was published Aug. 21.)

For nearly a half a century this country has embargoed Cuba in an effort to get rid of Castro and restore Democracy. You'd think someone would have figured out by now that if something doesn't work for 50 years it might be wise to try something different. Thank God for Obama and others who can think outside the narrow boxes the rest of them can't seem to find their way out of.

As a Canadian, I am free to visit Cuba, and have done so 5 times in the last 4 years.

When you see the hardships that the Cuban people face, BECAUSE of the US Embargo, you realise that this policy has to change.

The Cuban government has not changed in 50 years, so the embargo has failed in it's primary purpose; but it does effect the lives of everyday Cubans. Isn't the motto of the United States that "All men were created equal"? Why punish the people, because you don't like the government?

I t's insane to continue to torture the Cuban people. Isn't it a sign of insanity to keep doing the same thing expecting different results. It looks like Obama is sane!

Dear Eric, the myth that Cuba suffers because of the embargo is just that: a myth. There are hundreds of countries in the world: China; Canada; all of South America; all of Europe. All of these places trade with Cuba freely. The problem is that the Cuban economy has been destroyed by the current regime and it has nothing to sell. It also believes that a "business" is a sin because it involved the exploitation of man by man. So the country has nothing to sell. It does not even have sugar because government policies have destroyed this major industry. When Cuba says that it wants to do business with the USA, it only means that it wants lines of credit that it will never pay back. In other words, hand outs like they used to get from the USSR.

The elimination of the blockage may or may not help the Cuban economy, but the possibilities of a positive outcome are very low indeed.

I agree with the future President Obama..I have been a medical student on the island for 6 years and ahlf and its SAD to see the suffering of 12 million people...I ma sure that we all know the phrase.."two wrongs dont make a right"...I am pleading with the US government to please lift the embargo against Cuba....if not all at once then start with food, clothes, ahoes and toiletries....PLEASE...I wish that most could live as a Cuba for one week and you would understand...When tourists come to the island they stay in the uses go to the lovely places and hotels but they never see the real Cuba, the real suffering..PLEASE LIFT the Embargo....


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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