After half a century of frozen US/Cuban relations due to the Cold War, President Obama yesterday announced a plan to re-establish diplomatic relations amid a prisoner exchange agreement with the Cuban government. The negotiations were aided in part by the country of Canada and assistance from the Vatican.
Report from the Miami Herald:
The hard line dividing Miami and Havana, drawn more than half a century ago by Cuban exiles who shunned the dictatorship they left behind, suddenly softened Wednesday, leaving two stunned generations of Cuban Americans to grapple with what the future may hold.
President Barack Obama announced he would restore diplomatic relations with Cuba after the communist regime led by Raúl Castro freed American political prisoner Alan Gross and other dissidents. That was welcome news to exiles but the president also agreed to a spy swap, the kind of deal stalwart Castro critics have long opposed.
Shock reverberated through Miami, the heart of the exile community, where detractors lambasted the policy shift — and the Democratic president — for what they called a betrayal. A frenzy of reporters and politicians descended on Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana, a mecca of traditional anti-Castro sentiment.
Obviously this has caused shock waves in Washington and around the country with everyone under the sun responding either in favor of the move, or vehemently against such actions.
Politico has a good round-up of the 2016 presidential candidate responses here:
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush: As governor, Bush took a hard line against the Castro regime, and he reiterated that stance in a recent speech to the U.S. Cuba Democracy PAC, a pro-embargo advocacy group. “I would argue that instead of lifting the embargo we should consider strengthening it again to put pressure on the Cuban regime,” Bush said. On Wednesday, he slammed Obama’s decision: “I don’t think we should be negotiating with a repressive regime to make changes in our relationship.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas): Cruz did not immediately issue a statement Wednesday, but it’s a good bet that he strongly opposes the president’s policy change. According to the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, Cruz is against lifting the embargo on Cuba. Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, fled Cuba for the United States as a teenager and made headlines in 2013 for comparing President Obama to Castro.
Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.): Paul has said little about the embargo on Cuba, although his views on foreign policy have tended to align with those of his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who spoke out against the embargo in 2008 and 2012. In November, Paul’s office told the Wall Street Journal that Paul “had not recently taken a public position on the embargo.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.): Rubio immediately denounced the president’s move in strident terms, calling the deal “disgraceful” and vowing to block it when Congress returns in January. He also called Obama “the worst negotiator in modern U.S. history.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “I would like to see us move toward normalizing relations eventually and therefore more Americans back and forth. That’s something President Obama did and I supported the first term. … And I would like to see us move toward ending the embargo and trying to, by our example, by commerce, by all kinds of visits, you know, help the Cuban people have a different future,” Clinton said to Fusion’s Jorge Ramos in July.
Vice President Joe Biden: The vice president has not staked out an independent position on the Cuba embargo, but told the Cuban media outlet 14ymedio in May: “I cannot emphasize enough that Cuba’s continued detention of Alan Gross is a major impediment to improved relations between the United States and Cuba …We can be as creative as we like with our policy, but Alan’s case remains at the top of our list for resolution.”
See the entire story from Politico for responses from Carson, Huckabee, Santorum, Sanders, and O’Malley.
Rand Paul has now taken a position on the new policy, via the Associated Press:
Paul said in a radio interview with Tom Roten of News Talk 800 WVHU in Huntington, West Virginia, that many younger Cuban Americans support opening up trade with Cuba. He also said many U.S. farmers would back Obama’s moves because the country is a new market for their crops.
“The 50-year embargo just hasn’t worked,” Paul said. “If the goal is regime change, it sure doesn’t seem to be working and probably it punishes the people more than the regime because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship.
“In the end, I think opening up Cuba is probably a good idea,” he said.
So there you go, Paul’s on record basically backing the move on the grounds that he believes the embargo has not achieved any goals.