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Key Quotes on the U.S.-Cuba Relations

Key Quotes on the U.S.-Cuba Relations

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U.S. Leaders

Our shift in policy towards Cuba comes at a moment of renewed leadership in the Americas. This April, we are prepared to have Cuba join the other nations of the hemisphere at the Summit of the Americas. But we will insist that civil society join us so that citizens, not just leaders, are shaping our future. And I call on all of my fellow leaders to give meaning to the commitment to democracy and human rights at the heart of the Inter-American Charter. Let us leave behind the legacy of both colonization and communism, the tyranny of drug cartels, dictators and sham elections. A future of greater peace, security and democratic development is possible if we work together — not to maintain power, not to secure vested interest, but instead to advance the dreams of our citizens.          – President Barack Obama 

This new course will not be without challenges, but it is based not on a leap of faith but on a conviction that it’s the best way to help bring freedom and opportunity to the Cuban people, and to promote America’s national security interests in the Americas, including greater regional stability and economic opportunities for American businesses. – Secretary of State, John Kerry

These historic actions by the President chart a new course for our country’s relationship with Cuba and its people. It will improve the lives of millions and will help spur long overdue economic and political reform across the country. Expanding economic engagement between the Cuban people and the American business community will be a powerful catalyst that will strengthen human rights and the rule of law. President Obama and I believe deeply in the power of commercial diplomacy to change lives and economies for the better. Everyone deserves an opportunity to increase prosperity for themselves and their families, and to that end, I look forward to visiting Cuba to lead our efforts to expand our commercial diplomacy as part of the President’s initiative to encourage positive change in Cuba. – Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker

I am deeply relieved by Alan Gross’s safe return to the United States and I support President Obama’s decision to change course on Cuba policy, while keeping the focus on our principal objective — supporting the aspirations of the Cuban people for freedom. Despite good intentions, our decades-long policy of isolation has only strengthened the Castro regime’s grip on power. As I have said, the best way to bring change to Cuba is to expose its people to the values, information, and material comforts of the outside world. The goal of increased U.S. engagement in the days and years ahead should be to encourage real and lasting reforms for the Cuban people. And the other nations of the Americas should join us in this effort. – Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton

Over the last 50 years, I have watched this policy unfold, and I have been part of it. But I think it’s time now to turn that page of history. I don’t see anything wrong with opening diplomatic relations with Cuba. This is still a terrible regime. We don’t support their form of government, we don’t like what they doing, but I think are having diplomatic relations, as we’ve had with the Soviet Union and with Vietnam and so many other places, we can produce positive change. But this is just the beginning — we’re not lifting the sanctions yet and there’s a lot of pressure that will remain on the Castro brothers and should remain on them until they start to show the kind of positive movement that we want to see — releasing political prisoners, opening up the economy, making life easier and more open for the Cuban people. – Former Secretary of State, Colin Powell

Though I have been a critic of many of the President’s actions, I think it is important to give credit where credit is due. Accordingly, I am encouraged by the President’s move today to ease restrictions for Americans wanting to travel to Cuba and the promise of efforts to begin a dialogue with the people of Cuba. The move toward diplomatic conversation and a United States Embassy in Cuba is both wise and a statement of the obvious, as the U.S. Interests Section in Havana has long been one of the busiest of State Department facilities in the Western Hemisphere. This is a step in the right direction, and in that regard, I credit the President. – Congressman Mark Sanford, South Carolina

The 50-year embargo just hasn’t worked. 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. – Senator Rand Paul, Kentucky

This is a wonderful day for Alan Gross, for his wife Judy and their family. The manner in which they have endured this nightmare is worthy of praise and admiration. It was an honor to be with Alan as he touched down on U.S. soil after more than five years in a Cuban prison. When I visited Alan last month, he expressed the hope that his ordeal might somehow lead to positive changes between the United States and Cuba. With today’s significant and far-reaching announcements, I think it already has. – Senator Jeff Flake, Arizona 

 

Political Commentators

The U.S. business community welcomes today’s announcement, and has long supported many of the economic provisions the president touched on in his remarks. 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. In countries around the world, where leaders from across the political spectrum have made a concerted effort to liberalize their economy, we have seen a sharp rise in the quality of life of their citizens. The Chamber and its members stand ready to assist as the Cuban people work to unleash the power of free enterprise to improve their lives. – President and CEO Thomas Donohue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The changes the Obama administration announced have the potential to empower Cuba’s growing entrepreneurial class by permitting commercial and financial transactions with the United States. Given Cuba’s complicated history with the United States, it’s all but certain that this new chapter will include suspicion and backsliding. Leaders in both countries must make every effort to deal with those in a rational, constructive way. Going forward, American support for Cuba’s civil society and dissidents is likely to become more effective in good part because other governments in the Western Hemisphere will no longer be able to treat Cuba as a victim of the United States’ pointlessly harsh policy. – Editorial, New York Times

This is precisely the kind of bold presidential leadership needed to move our relations not only with Cuba but with the region and the world to a more positive and constructive place. This is very welcome news for the widening coalition of voices in the United States and around the world—religious leaders, business groups, human rights organizations, academics, members of Congress and a growing majority of Cuban Americans—calling on the president to take serious and positive unilateral steps to move from the Cold War past to a modern and more effective approach to reconcile relations with Cuba. Additionally, it will pave the way to revive U.S. leadership in the region in time for the Summit of the Americas next April. – Senior Fellow Ted Piccone, Brookings Institute 

What is interesting is that on both sides of the debate are people who claim their goal is to bring about a peaceful transition to a democratic, market-oriented Cuba. This debate will continue to rage — what took place on Wednesday, while a major development, was less than full normalisation. This can only happen when Congress agrees to end the economic embargo, something that will not happen until Cuba puts into place many of the fundamentals of democracy, including free and fair elections and a free press. In the meantime, US standing in the western hemisphere will be enhanced, the president will probably receive more praise than criticism for his diplomacy, and many of the 11m Cuban people will find themselves slightly better off and with reason to hope that their future will be better yet. – Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations

Only the United States Congress can repeal the embargo. What Mr Obama has done is remove some of its teeth. Just how far détente between the United States and Cuba will go is not yet clear. “I don’t expect a transformation of Cuban society overnight,” said Mr Obama. But he is surely right in saying that after half a century of failure in trying to isolate Cuba, it is worth trying to promote change there through engagement. – Editorial, The Economist

 

International Leaders

The Holy Father wishes to express his warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations, with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history. The Holy See received Delegations of the two countries in the Vatican last October and provided its good offices to facilitate a constructive dialogue on delicate matters, resulting in solutions acceptable to both Parties. The Holy See will continue to assure its support for initiatives which both nations will undertake to strengthen their bilateral relations and promote the wellbeing of their respective citizens. – His Holiness Pope Francis, Vatican

I wish to congratulate the Government of the United States and the Government of Cuba on their successful dialogue and negotiations which will lead to normalized relations between their two countries. Canada supports a future for Cuba that fully embraces the fundamental values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Canada was pleased to host the senior officials from the United States and Cuba, which permitted them the discretion required to carry out these important talks. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada

This is my dream, what I have wanted for the continent. In the name of the whole continent, we celebrate the audacity and courage of President Obama and the Cuban government. It is a fundamental step for the normalization of the two countries that will impact very well in the hemisphere. – President Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia

I welcome the new era in U.S.-Cuba relations. At the Summit of the Americas we will fulfill the dream of a united region. – President Juan Carlos Varela, Panama

 

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