Friday, February 29, 2008



Do you think it's time to end the stranglehold on U.S. policy with Cuba by a half million Cuban refugees in Florida? Most members of Congress do-- and have for quite some time.
Majorities in both chambers have repeatedly voted to ease current U.S. restrictions on travel to the island, and have favored facilitating agricultural exports to Cuba. Previously, President Bush strongly opposed any relaxation of U.S. restrictions relating to Cuba, and former Majority Leader Tom Delay was known to make sure any such changes would die in conference.

That is likely to change next year with the end of the Bush Regime and the likely losses of dozens of far right Republican members of Congress. Today, though, 24 senators, from both parties and across the ideological spectrum, sent a letter to the Bush Regime asking them to re-examine American policy towards Cuba. The list includes reactionaries from both parties whose states are clamoring to trade with Cuba-- right-wing Democrat Mary Landrieu of Louisiana as well as the two Republican extremists from Idaho, Larry "I'm Still Here" Craig and Mike Crapo, for examples-- as well as liberals and moderates. The full list of senators who signed the letter:
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT)
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID)
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI)
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Sen. Mark Pryor (R-AR)
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Sen. Chuck Hagel (D-NB)
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA)
Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)

And the text of the letter, which went to Condoleeza Rice:
On Tuesday, February 19, Fidel Castro resigned after serving as Cuba's leader for nearly 50 years.  This welcome and historic event provides the United States with an important opportunity to reflect upon and reconsider U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Our current policy of isolation and estrangement has failed.  Cuba's political system is stable after five decades of American efforts to force change on the island.  New laws that tightened sanctions in 1992 and 1996 have had no effect. The administration's 2004 sanctions and its comprehensive plan to bring about transition in Cuba have failed in their objective.  The absence of Fidel Castro for 20 months has not led to a change in the system.

Instead, our current policy deprives the United States of influence in Cuba, including the opportunity to promote principles that advance democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.  By restricting the ability of Americans to travel freely to Cuba, we limit contact and communication on the part of families, civil society, and government.  Likewise, by restricting the ability of our farmers, ranchers, and businesses to trade with Cuba, the United States has made itself irrelevant in Cuba's growing economy, allowing Cuba to build economic partnerships elsewhere.

There is no magic U.S. policy that will transform Cuba.  But with Cuba facing a period of change, we have a new opportunity to seize.  Our policy based on sanctions, passivity, and waiting should end.  We need a new approach that defends human rights, is confident about the value of American engagement with Cubans, builds new economic bridges between America and Cuba, and seeks every possible avenue of increasing American influence.

We urge you to take a fresh look at our policy toward Cuba.  We should seize upon Castro's long-awaited and welcome departure to chart a new course that favors hope and engagement over isolation and estrangement.

If the Cubans were smart, they'd refuse normalization for as long as they can-- and keep McDonald's, WalMart, predatory privatization, the Mafia, and all the other treats that will come along with renewed chumminess with the giant 90 miles to the north.



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