Reaction to the president’s new policy toward Cuba

The Wisconsin Gazette

The 53-year-old U.S. policy of isolating Cuba is a failed attempt to promote democracy and freedom, say the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus — U.S. Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona and Keith Ellison of Minnesota — and its Peace and Security Task Force Chair, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee of California.

The Democrats, responding to President Barack Obama’s new policy toward Cuba, said in a joint statement, “Isolating Cuba separated the people of Cuba and their Cuban-American family members, and impaired our ability to build constructive relationships in Latin America.

“By restarting diplomatic relations and establishing a new embassy, the U.S. can start conversations on issues like commerce and human rights that have been dormant between our nations for too long. We applaud President Obama for his bold new approach and welcome news that, for the first time, both the U.S. and Cuba will attend the Summit of the America’s in 2015.”

The statement continued, “The president has laid out a promising path forward and now it is up to Congress to act. Congress must lift the trade embargo and normalize travel between our two nations, which are only 90 miles apart. The Congressional Progressive Caucus looks forward to working with President Obama and members of Congress who want to stabilize relations between the U.S. and Cuba.”

Other reaction to Obama’s announcement made on Dec. 17, on the eve of International Migrants Day:

• From the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities: “As Latino immigrant leaders, NALACC salutes the president for this clear-eyed and brave action. In his speech, the president noted that the policy of isolation that the United States has pursued for the past 50 years has failed to advance US interests and has harmed ordinary Cubans. We welcome these first steps toward normalizing relations with Cuba and harnessing the “power of people to people engagement,” as the president mentioned in his speech…

“Unfortunately, many of the punitive and isolating measures that continue to pose a barrier to normal relations with Cuba have been enshrined in U.S. Law. This is another instance, similar to immigration reform, where Presidential actions can move the debate forward, but eventually, Congress must act. We hope that a bi-partisan spirit will pervade and the necessary legislative steps to end the embargo will be taken very soon.”

• Inaugural poet Richard Blanco, whose mother fled Cuba while she was seven months pregnant. “There’s a whole sense of what it means to be a Cuban in Miami and what it means to be a Cuban in Cuba. And now we can have a dialogue and talk about what experiences we have in common and what things we can share.”

• U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Thomas J. Donohue: “We deeply believe that an open dialogue and commercial exchange between the U.S. and Cuban private sectors will bring shared benefits, and the steps announced today will go a long way in allowing opportunities for free enterprise to flourish.”

• U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee: “I am hopeful that the Cuban government’s decision to release Alan Gross portends a desire to move toward democracy, openness, engagement, rule of law, and a free civil society.”

• U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, a Democrat from Wisconsin: “I support normalizing relations with Cuba that will ease restrictions between our countries and put an end to 50 years of failed policy. It doesn’t make sense to have economic relations with a Communist nation like China, yet stay closed off to a nation just 90 miles off our coast.

“Now, Congress needs to act to end the embargo altogether and fully open up this new market to U.S exports. For years, farmers in Wisconsin have wanted to lift economic sanctions on Cuba and with today’s news we can look forward to new economic growth and job creation in agriculture, manufacturing and other sectors of our economy.”

• U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, a state with a substantial Cuban-American population: “This is going to do absolutely nothing to further human rights and democracy in Cuba.”

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois: “Opening the door with Cuba for trade, travel and the exchange of ideas will create a force for positive change in Cuba that more than 50 years of our current policy of exclusion could not achieve.”

Editor’s note: This report will be updated.