Statements made by policy makers on Fidel Castro's resignation.
See a letter sent by members of Congress to Secretary Rice calling for a review of U.S. policy toward Cuba on occasion of the resignation of Fidel Castro here (PDF).
See a Senate version of this letter here (PDF).
February 19, 2008Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) Member of U.S. Senate
Baucus Sees New Opportunity for Cuba Policy
Castro’s Resignation Should Allow U.S. to Begin to Resume Trade and Travel
Today, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) commented on Fidel Castro’s resignation as Cuba’s President. Baucus has been a longtime advocate of reforming U.S. economic policies toward Cuba and reexamining the decades-old restrictions on trade and travel.
“Fidel Castro’s welcome resignation provides a new opportunity to revisit our failed Cuba policies and put U.S.-Cuba relations on a new path,” said Baucus. “It is time to get our Cuba policy right for America’s farmers and ranchers – including those in my home state of Montana, who are ready to sell their goods to Cuban buyers – and for families across the Florida Straits by beginning to ease trade and travel restrictions now.”
Last summer, Baucus — along with Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Representatives Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), introduced legislation to make it easier for U.S. farmers and ranchers to sell their world-class products to Cuba by easing restrictions on travel to and payment from Cuba. Baucus held a hearing on the “Promoting American Agricultural and Medical Exports to Cuba Act of 2007” on December 11, 2007, and is working with colleagues in the Senate to move the bill forward this year.
An independent International Trade Commission study commissioned by Baucus found that removing U.S. export restrictions would increase the annual U.S. share of Cuba’s agriculture imports to as much as nearly 70 percent, representing an annual boost of over $300 million in U.S. agriculture sales.
Source: Press Release from Senator Baucus
Representative Howard Berman (D-CA)
Acting Chairman of House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Washington, DC — In response to this morning’s announcement that Cuban leader Fidel Castro has decided to retire, Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-CA), Acting Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement:
“For far too long, the Cuban people have been denied democratic freedoms, fundamental human rights, and the rule of law. I hope today’s announcement will mark a turning point in their struggle for a better life.
It is my intention to hold hearings with representatives of the Administration and outside experts to assess the impact of Castro’s retirement and to review U.S. policy toward the island. This development may provide an opportunity for the United States to inject creativity and fresh ideas into that policy to better achieve our common goal of bringing freedom to the people of Cuba.”
Acting Chairman Berman is the author of the “Berman Amendment”, a provision in the 1988 Omnibus Trade Act that prohibits the President from regulating the import or export of informational and cultural materials – such as books, paintings and movies – to Cuba and other nations under U.S. embargo. He has also been a leader in efforts to end restrictions on travel to Cuba.
Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
"As you know, Fidel Castro announced that he is stepping down as Cuba's leader after 58 years of one-man rule. The new leadership in Cuba will face a stark choice — continue with the failed policies of the past that have stifled democratic freedoms and stunted economic growth — or take a historic step to bring Cuba into the community of democratic nations. The people of Cuba want to seize this opportunity for real change and so must we.
"I would say to the new leadership, the people of the United States are ready to meet you if you move forward towards the path of democracy, with real, substantial reforms. The people of Cuba yearn for the opportunity to get out from under the weight of this authoritarian regime, which has held back 11 million talented and hardworking citizens of the Americas. The new government should take this opportunity to release political prisoners and to take serious steps towards democracy that give their people a real voice in their government.
"The American people have been on the side in the Cuban people's struggle for freedom and democracy in the past and we will be on their side for democracy in the future.
"As president, I will engage our partners in Latin America and Europe who have a strong stake in seeing a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba, and who want very much for the United States to play a constructive role to that end. The United States must pursue an active policy that does everything possible to advance the cause of freedom, democracy and opportunity in Cuba.
"The events of the past three days, including elections in Pakistan and Kosovo's declaration of independence, are a vivid illustration of people around the world yearning for democracy and opportunity. We need a president with the experience to recognize and seize these opportunities to advance America's values and interests around the world. I will be that president."
Democratic National Committee Hispanic Caucus Statement on Castro Resignation
The Democratic National Committee Hispanic Caucus reacted to the news of Fidel Castro's resignation today, standing with the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom and democracy. DNC Hispanic Caucus Vice Chair Eliseo Roques issued the following statement:
"Today's developments in Cuba are a welcome, dramatic, and long overdue change. Unfortunately, the Cuban people and the island's political dissidents will continue to face a tyrannical dictatorship led by Fidel's brother Raul.
"Despite promising to help bring democracy to Cuba as a presidential candidate, President Bush has repatriated some 8,000 Cuban refugees fleeing the Castro regime during his tenure, and this week becomes the President who presided while power was transferred seamlessly from one Castro to another. The Republican frontrunner, John McCain, offered more of the same wait-and-see attitude today after months of remaining silent while his fellow Republican candidates used Castro's lines in their speeches and warned that Cuban refugees might bring suitcase bombs with them while inciting fear over immigrants.
"We all stand united to help the Cuban people reclaim the freedom they have been denied for almost five decades and to help a free Cuba take its rightful place among the democratic nations of the Americas. But the Cuban people deserve straight talk, not a third Bush term of empty promises and shallow rhetoric from their elected officials."
Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
Member of Congress
Diaz-Balart: As Of This Time Nothing Has Changed In Totalitarian Cuba
The dictator's power since 1959 has not been based on particular titles
February 19th, 2008 – Miami, Florida – In response to questions received concerning the statement made today by the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro that he will not "seek the position of President of the Council of State and Commander in Chief", Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) issued the following statement:
"It is important to realize that, as of this time, there has been no change in totalitarian Cuba. Fidel Castro has been critically ill and immobile for over a year and a half. Accordingly, he has decided to relinquish the titles of "President" of his "Council of State" and "Commander in Chief". But in totalitarian Cuba, Fidel Castro's absolute power is not based on titles. The dictator's written declarations have the effect of totalitarian decrees, whether signed with the title "Commander in Chief" or "Comrade", or simply with his name. What we all need to be concentrating on is the urgent need for a democratic transition in Cuba, beginning with the liberation of all political prisoners, the legalization of all political parties, labor unions and the press, and the scheduling of free, multiparty elections. Let us not get confused with the dictator's titles or lack of them. For now, nothing has changed in totalitarian Cuba. It is time for the international community to unite to press for freedom for all the political prisoners and for free elections in Cuba," said Lincoln Diaz-Balart.
Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
Member of Congress
Washington, D.C., Feb 19 – Republican Congressman Jeff Flake, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today released the following statement regarding the resignation of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
"The reign of Fidel Castro marked a brutal and dictatorial chapter for the Cuban people," said Flake. "Let's hope that his resignation opens a new chapter."
"Whether that new chapter will be open, however, largely depends on a new approach to Cuba by the U.S. Government. The U.S. embargo gave Fidel a tremendous advantage in terms of lengthening his tenure. Let's not give his successor the same advantage by keeping the embargo in place."
Congressman Flake, a critic of the U.S.'s current Cuba policy, believes that the most effective way to hasten democratic reforms in Cuba is to ease trade and travel restrictions currently imposed by the U.S.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
"Today's resignation of Fidel Castro is nearly half a century overdue. For decades, Castro oversaw an apparatus of repression that denied liberty to the people who suffered under his dictatorship.
"Yet freedom for the Cuban people is not yet at hand, and the Castro brothers clearly intend to maintain their grip on power. That is why we must press the Cuban regime to release all political prisoners unconditionally, to legalize all political parties, labor unions and free media, and to schedule internationally monitored elections.
"Cuba's transition to democracy is inevitable; it is a matter of when – not if. With the resignation of Fidel Castro, the Cuban people have an opportunity to move forward and continue pushing for the moment that they will truly be free. America can and should help hasten the sparking of freedom in Cuba. The Cuban people have waited long enough."
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
Member of the U.S. Senate
WASHINGTON – Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who is of Cuban descent and has been a leading critic of the regime in Cuba, today released the following statement upon the news that Fidel Castro is resigning as Cuban president:
"This is not the cause for celebration that some would believe. This does not represent the replacement of totalitarianism with democracy – instead, it is the replacement of one dictator with another. In essence, today's action makes official what has been in place for a while now, with Raul continuing to lead the same iron-fisted regime that his brother brought to power almost 50 years ago. Just because the dictator is now named Raul instead of Fidel, it doesn't mean that the regime's repressive rule will automatically change.
"What this move does perhaps present is a moment of hope. Raul does not have the same relationship with the Cuban people as Fidel, and now is the time to challenge him. Cubans who have been clamoring for change may see this as the opportunity to peacefully protest and make their aspirations known. The recent activism of Cuban youth wearing white "Cambio" bracelets is a reflection of that desire for change. Here in the United States, it is a time to further nurture the human rights activists, political dissidents and independent-minded journalists inside of Cuba who have the capability to stoke the movement toward freedom."
Senator Menendez was born in the United States to parents who immigrated from Cuba.
Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)
"Today should mark the end of a dark era in Cuba's history. Fidel Castro's stepping down is an essential first step, but it is sadly insufficient in bringing freedom to Cuba.
"Cuba's future should be determined by the Cuban people and not by an anti-democratic successor regime. The prompt release of all prisoners of conscience wrongly jailed for standing up for the basic freedoms too long denied to the Cuban people would mark an important break with the past. It's time for these heroes to be released.
"If the Cuban leadership begins opening Cuba to meaningful democratic change, the United States must be prepared to begin taking steps to normalize relations and to ease the embargo of the last five decades. The freedom of the Cuban people is a cause that should bring the Americans together."
Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C.—Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement today in response to the resignation of Cuban President Fidel Castro:
“The resignation of Fidel Castro is a reason to hope that freedom is closer than it was when he was the public face of an oppressive regime, but is not a guarantee of a democratic future for the people of Cuba.
“As Cubans at home and those living abroad continue their efforts to create a true democracy in their nation, all of us in the international community should continue to encourage the aspiration of the Cuban people for liberty – the fulfillment of which is long overdue.”
Representative Jose Serrano (D-NY)
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC – February 19, 2008 – Today, Congressman José E. Serrano reacted to Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s announcement that he had retired from public duties, saying the move “proves Castro’s critics wrong yet again.”
“Today’s news that Fidel Castro has retired from leading his nation proves yet again that this important figure defies the attempts of his critics to paint him simply as a power-hungry authoritarian,” Serrano said. “Instead, it proves that Castro sees clearly the long-term interests of the Cuban people and recognizes that they are best served by a carefully planned transition. Few leaders, having been on the front lines of history so long, would be able to voluntarily step aside in favor of a new, younger generation. In taking this action, Castro is ensuring that the changes he brought about will live on and grow.”
“I would like to congratulate both Fidel Castro and the Cuban people for this smooth transition of power. It is much to their credit that the much-predicted turmoil following Castro’s exit from direct control of the state did not happen. It proves that there is a broad base of support for the Cuban system on the island. It also proves that despite constant criticisms, Castro’s revolution was not merely a series of military events in Cuba in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but instead a process that continues to evolve in Cuba today.
“As always, I want to take the opportunity to call on the Bush Administration to change its backwards and counterproductive policy of blockading and isolating the Cuban people. In a moment like this, it is wise to remember that the stated goal of the Bush Administration and anti-Castro hardliners has been to push Fidel Castro from power. At times it seemed as though it was a personal grudge against Castro, remade into foreign policy. But now that he has voluntarily stepped aside and relinquished power, I wonder what twisted new rationale they will create to continue their failed policies. It is long past time to end the charade and begin dialogue and engagement with Cuba.
“Our two peoples are so much alike, with so many shared linkages, it is particularly sad to see us continue to dwell on false and invented divisions. I deeply hope that the new leadership in Cuba can find a new opportunity for dialogue when a new administration comes to power in the United States in January 2009. It is time to recognize that Castro was a great leader for his people—and move toward engagement with his successor. It is time to put the past struggles behind us and move forward together.”
Source: Press Release from Rep. Serrano