Challenges to U.S. Policy Toward Cuba
October 2, 2003
There’s an old saying I think we’re all familiar with that fits the theme of this hearing pretty well. It says that even though it isn’t always possible to change the whole world, you can always use what influence you have on whatever is before you.
Today we have before us our continued review and discussion of our policy with Cuba.
The title of our hearing is “Challenges to U.S. Policy Toward Cuba.” We will be taking a look at the challenges to our current policy that come from within our own country and those that come from without – most notably from Castro and his own policies.
There is no question that the behavior of Castro and the Cuban government has presented a strong challenge to our policy with Cuba for many years. In a word, his conduct has been deplorable. He has refused to provide the most basic of human rights to his people. He has refused to allow his people the right to exercise the most basic of human rights and freedoms. He tries to do everything he can to control what the people of his country see and hear. He also tries to make the United States his scapegoat for everything that goes wrong in his country and his people always seem to believe him. Who can blame them? Who can they ask or turn to for another opinion? Most of them have never known anything else but Castro and when he does something wrong we punish him in ways that serve more to punish the people of Cuba than Castro himself.
There is another level of challenges to our policy with Cuba. They come from within our own government, from the Administration, and from the members of Congress who believe, as I do, that the time has come for a change in our policy toward Cuba, beginning with just the travel policies.
When we introduced the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act on April 30, 2003, we were prepared for the questions that were soon to follow. We presented our case fairly and pointed out the need for change based on a philosophy my father used to call – “If you keep on doing what you have always been doing then you are going to wind up getting what you have already got.
He was right. It is foolish to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results every time. In fact, if we were to let someone impartial help us out with this one, he’d ask us what our policy toward Cuba was – and, when we explained it, he’d ask us one simple question.
“Is it working for you – is it getting you what you want?”
That’s when we would get it and realize why we must change our policy with Cuba. Because our current policy isn’t working – in fact – it hasn’t been working for a very long time for us or for the people of Cuba. This is driving other countries to help Cuba. It’s not widening the gap it’s narrowing it for him. Brazil just extended $400 million in credit.
The curious thing is why it has taken us so long to figure that out.
Clearly, we need a different policy. One that goes further than embargoes. One that replaces a needlessly restrictive travel policy with one that not only works – but encourages increased communication between our people and the people of Cuba. One that offers the Cuban people a chance that their human rights might increase in the process.
We now have 29 Senators supporting the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act. While this hearing is not going to formally address this issue, I don’t think there is any denying it is an important part of the mix.
The greatest resource we have for change – and for promoting change in other countries – is for our people to travel there. I like to think of our people as our Ambassadors of Freedom. When people in other countries have a chance to interact with our own people and come to know them, they will realize the great gift that freedom is and how it could change their lives if only their government would permit its expression. With policy change and people to people we project a fear that freedom of communication will pull the wool over American eyes. That we won’t be able to see the lie of communism. That goes against history.
If we’re truly serious about bringing change to the Cuban government we would promote every policy option we can to ensure that change comes from within Cuba. Our Ambassadors of Freedom can help do that by increasing the Cuban people’s idea of what is possible for them to achieve and to be as a nation. That’s how we brought down the Berlin Wall. Not by closing everything off.
There was a time when we thought we could close our eyes to the problems of the rest of the world and just live our lives in the safety and security of our borders. We then learned the harsh lessons of what happens when we refuse to get involved in the problems of the rest of the world.
As we’ve all heard, those to whom much is given, much is expected. There is no question that we have all been given much. We are truly blessed to call ourselves American citizens. There is also much expected of us around the world. Much is also expected of us by the people who live on an island less than 100 miles from our shores. We must not, and we will not, ignore their just expectations. We will also not ignore our responsibilities to our neighbors.