Monday’s announcement that Fidel Castro was stepping down as Cuba’s president drew a quick response from both President Bush, who declined to life the US embargo against Cuba, as well as the Democratic Party candidates for president. Senator Clinton said “The United States must pursue an active policy that does everything possible to advance the cause of freedom, democracy and opportunity in Cuba,” while Senator Obama said Castro’s decision “…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.”
Both statements were vague and fairly typical of the kind of rhetoric that one sees in political campaigns in the United States. However, journalist John Nichols of The Nation wrote an article comparing the candidates’ records on Cuba. The candidates differ on to key areas:
- Clinton has voted to fund TV Marti. TV Marti is a propaganda initiative that beams US-produced television programming into Cuba, who in turn jams the signal. Obama has voted twice to cut off funding for the program.
- Obama has said that he wishes to ease U.S.-Cuba travel restrictions. In an August 2007 editorial in the Miami Herald, he argued “Cuban-American connections to family in Cuba are not only a basic right in humanitarian terms, but also our best tool for helping to foster the beginnings of grassroots democracy on the island.” He said that he will “…grant Cuban-Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send remittances to the island.” In contrast, Clinton has not expressed a similar willingness to examine US-Cuba relations.