Dodd on Cuba

Senator Dodd has an op-ed in the Miami Herald today on US-Cuba policy. Of note, Dodd lays out a vision for steps the US government could take to hasten the democratization of Cuba.

We should:

  • Act decisively to end trade sanctions. This means repealing the ill-conceived Helms-Burton and Cuba Democracy Acts, as well as amending the Trade Sanctions Reform Act. With the embargo lifted, our businesses will have access to Cuban markets, our struggling farmers will find more buyers for their crops, and Cuba will gain extensive exposure to American culture.
  • Break down the artificial barriers keeping Cuban Americans apart from their families in Cuba. Lifting caps on remittances and travel restrictions will speed the influx of democratic values — and reduce an unnecessary hardship on Americans who want merely to assist their families overseas. Currently, the mail doesn’t even travel regularly between the United States and Cuba, let alone passengers. As we lift travel restrictions, we should also begin negotiating regularly scheduled flights.
  • Open an American embassy in Havana. If we want any influence over Cuba during this crucial time, we must practice robust diplomacy.There’s no better way to do that than having skilled diplomats pressing our interests in Havana, at all times and in person.

Ending sanctions, connecting families and strengthening diplomacy — this new policy of Cuban engagement is the most constructive response to Castro’s demise. Some in the Bush administration might call such a policy ”soft” — but that represents the same mind-set that thought we could bomb our way to democracy in the Middle East.

For far too long, American isolation has cemented a Cuban dictatorship. Today, that dictatorship may finally be starting to crack; how we seize this opportunity will determine whether it crumbles.

Patrick Doherty of The Havana Note writes:

The real question is whether one of the candidates for president will pick up on Sen. Dodd’s argument that the U.S. embargo is really the backbone of the Castro regime. Simply removing that crutch, he argues, will do more to advance U.S. interests than just about anything else. If that’s the case, any candidate in favor of sustaining the embargo, even conditioning U.S. policy on democratic change on the island, is really just being played by Havana.

I think this is right. Dodd put forward the most ground-changing vision for US-Cuba policy during the presidential campaign. He’s continuing to offer the clearest vision for how we must proceed. I hope Senators Obama and Clinton embrace Dodd’s stance on Cuba. It would be a welcome contrast to John W. McCain’s continued love for a policy that has been a failure for 50 years.

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