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What They’re Saying About The U.S. And Cuba Reopening Embassies

Ric Herrero

#CubaNow Blog Post

Jul 2, 2015


Yesterday’s announcement from President Obama that the U.S. and Cuba would be reopening embassies drew a wave of responses from members of the Senate, where bipartisan legislation to repeal the travel ban is gaining steam, from Cuban-Americans and others. You can read #CubaNow’s response here, then check out some of the other responses below.

Thank you for your support and have a happy and blessed Fourth of July.

The #CubaNow Team

Bipartisan Agreement In The Senate: It’s Time To Move Forward On Cuba Policy

Sen. Ben Cardin: “Reform Will Not Come To Cuba Overnight, But We Are Moving In A More Hopeful Direction.” “This announcement is another step forward in a common sense approach to Cuba. A U.S. Embassy in Havana will strengthen our ability to engage the Cuban people, advance our national interests, and advocate for fundamental freedoms. ‘Though today’s announcement is significant as we work toward establishing a more hopeful chapter in U.S. – Cuban relations, for a full normalization of relations to occur, the Cuban government must recognize that it is out of step today with the international community on human rights issues. Arrests and detentions of dissidents must cease and genuine political pluralism is long overdue. As the United States government is changing with the times, so to must the Cuban government to address the needs of the Cuban people. Reform will not come to Cuba overnight, but we are moving in a more hopeful direction.” [Cardin Press Release, “Cardin Statement on Administration Announcement of Plans to Open a U.S. Embassy in Havana,” 7/1/15]

Sen. Jeff Flake: “It’s Long Past Time For U.S. Policy Toward Cuba To Be Associated With Something Other Than Five Decades Of Failure.” “It's long past time for U.S. policy toward Cuba to be associated with something other than five decades of failure. It is difficult to overstate the importance of resuming diplomatic relations ‎with Cuba, in furthering our own national interests, benefiting our relations in the region, and encouraging a positive future for the Cuban people. I am confident that this move will lead to increased travel and contact between U.S. citizens and everyday Cubans, to the benefit of both.” [Flake Press Release, “Flake Statement on the Re-establishment of Diplomatic Relations with Cuba,” 6/30/15]

Sen. Pat Leahy: “After 55 Years The Wealthiest, Most Powerful Nation -- Which Stands For Ideals Aspired To By People Around The World – Will Be Represented By An Official Embassy Where We Can Put Our Best Face Forward On Behalf Of The American People As Well As The Cuban People.” “Finally, after 55 years a failed, punitive and ineffective policy of isolation is ending. After 55 years, the wealthiest, most powerful nation -- which stands for ideals aspired to by people around the world – will be represented by an official embassy where we can put our best face forward on behalf of the American people as well as the Cuban people. I commend President Obama and President Castro for this historic step which signifies the formal beginning of a new and more constructive chapter in U.S.–Cuban relations. The people of our countries have always had far more in common than their differences, and they overwhelmingly favor this step. We can now get to work in finding ways to bring them closer together by ending the restrictions on travel and trade that have only provided excuses for the failed policies of the past.” [Leahy Press Release, “Reaction Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) To The President’s Announcement Of The Plan To Open A U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba,” 7/1/15]

Sen. Dean Heller: “The United States And Cuba Continue To Build A Path That Will One Day Open Up Travel And Lead To Numerous Opportunities Mutually Beneficial To The People Of Both Countries.” ““December 17, 2014, was a historic day for the United States-Cuba relationship. Today’s announcement is equally as important. With the opening of these embassies, the United States and Cuba continue to build a path that will one day open up travel and lead to numerous opportunities mutually beneficial to the people of both countries. Re-establishing diplomatic relations is a step in the right direction for both of our nations. But many concerns remain surrounding basic freedoms and human rights issues in Cuba. These fundamental issues must be addressed by its government before our two nations can establish the bilateral relationship they are capable of achieving.” [Heller Press Release, “Statement on US and Cuba Announcing Embassy Openings,” 7/1/15]

Sen. Tim Kaine: “I’m Confident A Policy Of Engagement Rather Than Isolation Will Be More Effective In Advancing American Interests And Democratic Values In Cuba.” "Today's announcement of an agreement re-establishing formal relations and opening embassies between the United States and Cuba marks the beginning of a new era in American diplomacy in Latin America. I'm confident a policy of engagement rather than isolation will be more effective in advancing American interests and democratic values in Cuba. The United States, Cuba and Virginia stand to benefit from this renewed relationship, which will bring about increased trade and travel as well as an exchange of ideas that has been missing for 54 years. The normalization of U.S.-Cuba ties will also remove an obstacle that has often limited American diplomacy with other nations in the Western Hemisphere." [Kaine Press Release, “Kaine Statement on Announcement of Formal U.S.-Cuba Relations,” 7/1/15]

Sen. Ed Markey: “This Is An Important Step In The Continued Progress Toward Our Improving Relationship And Solidifying A Better Future With The Cuban People.” “The resumption of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba is an important milestone for the people of both of our countries. I am greatly encouraged by the announcement that the United States and Cuba will again have fully functioning embassies in our respective countries. This is an important step in the continued progress toward our improving relationship and solidifying a better future with the Cuban people, and among all peoples throughout the Americas. I applaud President Obama for his bold efforts to forge this new relationship with Cuba and the hard and careful work done by Secretary Kerry. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee and with the Obama administration as we reinstate full diplomatic relations with Cuba.” [Markey Press Release, “Sen. Markey Statement on Opening of U.S.-Cuba Embassies,” 7/1/15]

Sen. Chris Murphy: “Preserving America’s Relationships Around The Globe Depends On Strong Diplomatic Relationships And A Willingness To Learn From Both Our Successes And Our Failures.” “Preserving America's relationships around the globe depends on strong diplomatic relationships and a willingness to learn from both our successes and our failures. Our missteps in particular -- from the failed isolation of Cuba to the disastrous occupation of Iraq -- present valuable opportunities to learn the lessons of our past so that we can be more secure in the future. I applaud President Obama for recognizing that the time was right to reestablish diplomatic negotiations with Cuba. Embargo and isolation failed to bring fundamental change to Cuba and have instead become a source of friction between the United States and our partners in the Western Hemisphere and across the globe.” [Chris Murphy Press Release, “”Murphy Statement on Administration’s Cuba Announcement,” 7/1/15]

Sen. Tom Udall: “Congress Holds The Ability To Truly Open Cuba By Repealing Outdated Laws That Prevent Businesses From Expanding And Hinder Americans’ Ability To Travel Freely To Cuba.” "Re-opening embassies in Washington and Havana is a historic step toward normalizing relations and finally building a 21st century relationship with Cuba. In my visits with Cuban entrepreneurs, artists and others, it's clear to me that the Cuban people are eager to engage with the world. Re-establishing formal relations and further opening Cuba to American tourism, trade and commerce is a better way to bring freedom and openness to Cuba than the failed policies of the past. The administration has made tremendous progress in just a few short months, but Congress holds the ability to truly open Cuba by repealing outdated laws that prevent businesses from expanding and hinder Americans' ability to travel freely to Cuba. The best diplomats of American values are Americans themselves, and I will continue to work on the Foreign Relations Committee to push Congress to take these further steps toward modernizing our relations with Cuba." [Udall Press Release, “Udall Welcomes Historic Agreement To Re-Open Embassies in U.S. and Cuba,” 7/1/15]

Sen. Dick Durbin: “The Power Of New Ideas And The Force Of An Open Economy And An Open Society Will Succeed” In Cuba. “Opening our embassy in Havana will begin to open Cuba to the value of our democracy…Our foreign policy over the last 50 years in Cuba has failed to end the Castro dictatorship. The power of new ideas and the force of an open economy and an open society will succeed.” [Durbin Press Release, “Durbin Statement On Opening Of Embassies With Cuba,” 7/1/15]

Cuban-Americans Optimistic About Reinstated Relations

CNBC Headline: “Cuban-Americans on embassies: It’s about time” [CNBC, 7/1/15]

Latino Action Network’s Lazaro Cardenas: “Change Won’t Happen Overnight, But The Castros Aren’t Going To Be In Power Forever.” “Lazaro Cardenas, a steering committee member of the New Jersey civil rights group Latino Action Network, said the latest move may finally lead to political and economic changes in Cuba. ‘Change won't happen overnight, but the Castros aren't going to be in power forever,’ said Cardenas of Freehold, New Jersey, referring to former Cuban president Fidel and his brother and Cuba's current president Raul. Cardenas came to the U.S. from Cuba during the Mariel boatlift of 1980.” [NBC News, “Hope, Skepticism As Cuba, US Agree to Open Embassies,” 7/1/15]

Former Bush Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez: “My Hope Is That Increasing The Engagement Between Our Nations Will Improve The Lives Of All Cubans.” 
“Carlos Gutierrez, former Commerce Secretary under George W. Bush whose family fled Cuba in 1960, has also supported Obama's policy changes. Obama cited an opinion article that Gutierrez, a Republican, recently penned in support of the changed policies. ‘I wonder if the Cubans who have to stand in line for the most basic necessities for hours in the hot Havana sun feel that this approach is helpful to them,’ Gutierrez wrote, a line quoted by Obama. ‘Today's announcement is historic, but it is only one step in a long process. My hope is that increasing the engagement between our nations will improve the lives of all Cubans,’ Gutierrez, chair at Albright Stonebridge Group, said Wednesday in a statement emailed to NBC News.” [NBC News, “Hope, Skepticism As Cuba, US Agree to Open Embassies,” 7/1/15]

Cuba Study Group: “While There Are Still Many Issues To Be Resolved In The Full Normalization Of Relations Between The Two Countries And Its Peoples, Today’s Announcement Gives Us Another Reason To Be Optimistic.”
 “Today’s announcement regarding the normalization of diplomatic relations represents an important step in the long road toward fully normalized relations between the U.S. and Cuba. It is further evidence that engagement rather than isolation is the best way to advance U.S. interests and the interests of the Cuban people. We are pleased that both governments have taken steps to resolve a number of challenging issues in order to reach this point. While there are still many issues to be resolved in the full normalization of relations between the two countries and its peoples, today’s announcement gives us another reason to be optimistic. This process of reconciliation will require the participation of various actors including civil society in both countries. We call on the U.S. and Cuba to take all necessary steps to facilitate the free and unfettered flow of people, information and resources between our two countries.” [Cuba Study Group, “Statement on the Re-establishment of Diplomatic Relations With Cuba,” 7/1/15]

Cuba Policy Coalition And Others: Reopening Embassies Is The Start Of A New Era In U.S.-Cuba Policy

AS/COA: The Opening Of Embassies “Herald A New Era Of Bilateral Relations Driven By Engagement.” “Americas Society and Council of the Americas welcome the United States’ historic decision to officially restore diplomatic relations with Cuba and reopen the embassies in their capitals, a central pillar to the new U.S. policy of normalizing relations with the government and empowering the people of Cuba. The opening of embassies in Washington and Havana is a major milestone in a series of substantive decisions which herald a new era of bilateral relations driven by engagement. ‘We congratulate the U.S. government on the sweeping changes it has taken to end a policy of isolation towards Cuba,’ said Americas Society/Council of the Americas President and CEO Susan Segal. ‘The overwhelming support that this new course has received from leaders and people around the hemisphere and the world confirm that the Obama administration is moving in the right direction. We look forward to seeing Congress further the goals of these new policies to bring positive tangible benefits to the people and businesses of the U.S., Cuba, and the region.’” [AS/COA, “AS/COA Welcomes the Restoration of Diplomatic Relations with Cuba,” 7/1/15]

Engage Cuba: “Opening Embassies In Washington And Havana Is An Important Step Toward The Day When Americans Can Make Their Own Decisions On Where They Travel, And Our Businesses Can Compete With The Rest Of The World.” “We applaud this important step in bringing the U.S. and Cuba closer together, and urge Congress to hasten the day when American travelers and companies have the freedom to engage with one of our nearest neighbors. Opening embassies in Washington and Havana is an important step toward the day when Americans can make their own decisions on where they travel, and our businesses can compete with the rest of the world. We are making history by making it clear that America’s engagement isn’t a concession, it is a show of strength and the best way to promote our values and create opportunities for both Americans and the Cuban people.” [Engage Cuba, “Statement from Engage Cuba on Announcement that U.S. and Cuban Embassies Will Reopen,” 7/1/15]

Latin America Working Group: Re-Opening “Is A Long-Awaited Development, Supported By The Majority Of Americans, Cuban Americans, And Cubans Alike.” “‘The Latin America Working Group celebrates this major milestone in U.S.-Cuba relations. It is a long-awaited development, supported by the majority of Americans, Cuban Americans, and Cubans, alike. A relationship based on equality and respect is now possible, and we congratulate the diplomats and policymakers who have worked on this new reality for our two countries. And we highlight the advocacy and citizen diplomacy that activists from around the country have carried out for years. Work well done.’ says Mavis Anderson, the Latin America Working Group’s Senior Associate on Cuba.” [LAWG, “U.S. and Cuba to Open Embassies in Havana and Washington,” 7/1/15]

Washington Office On Latin America: “It’s Both Gratifying And Amazing To See Common Sense Finally Prevail In U.S. Policy Toward Cuba.” “After working on this issue for twenty years, I sometimes have to stop and do a reality check to be sure it's really happening. After years of what felt like pounding on a brick wall, it's both gratifying and amazing to see common sense finally prevail in U.S. policy towards Cuba,” said Geoff Thale, WOLA’s Director of Programs. ‘This announcement is a positive step for the United States and the hemisphere. It's a long overdue policy change, and opens up the prospects for practical collaboration while allowing us to discuss our differences in a serious way,’ he said.In addition, Marc Hanson, Senior Associate for Cuba, said: ‘Establishing a U.S. embassy in Cuba is clearly in the U.S. economic, security, and foreign policy interest. When historians look back, they will mostly wonder why it took so long.’” [WOLA, “U.S. and Cuba to Officially Open Embassies: WOLA’s Response,” 7/1/15]

Center For Democracy In The Americas: “The Restoration Of Diplomatic Relations Between Our Two Countries Is A Major Achievement That Will Help To Heal Decades Of Mistrust.” “‘This is a moment we have been working toward for many years,’ said Sarah Stephens, executive director of CDA. ‘The restoration of diplomatic relations between our countries is a major achievement that will help to heal decades of mistrust and will open opportunities for the U.S. and Cuba to collaborate on issues of mutual interest like immigration, environmental conservation, and regional trade. We applaud the tireless work of Cuban and U.S. diplomats, policymakers, academics, and activists who have helped make this possible. We are ready to work with all our allies to defend these positive steps initiated by President Obama and to move forward with removing the embargo once and for all.’” [Center for Democracy in the Americas, “CDA Applauds Announcement That U.S. and Cuba Will Reopen Embassies,” 7/1/15]

Center for Strategic & International Studies’ Carl Meacham: Embassies Are “The Start Of The Second Phase In The Countries’ Difficult Work To Build A Productive Bilateral Relationship.” “Perhaps more than anything else, raising the American flag over the U.S. embassy in Havana is deeply symbolic, marking the start of a new phase for the United States and Cuba. The normalization process that the two countries began just over six months ago has, in large part, been building to this announcement. But it’s important that we temper this promise with a dose of reality. The embassies are an important step, but they are not the endgame. Rather, they’re the start of the second phase in the countries’ difficult work to build a productive bilateral relationship…Still, the embassies are an important step—and one that shows more than ever that U.S.-Cuba policy reform is the way forward for the two countries, as long as they can continue to define the next step for their relationship.” [CSIS, “Will the new U.S. embassy in Havana have an ambassador?” 7/1/15]

NAFSA: Americans Should Have The Freedom To Travel To Cuba As Secretary John Kerry Will When He Reopens The Embassy. “We applaud this historic and important step forward in normalizing relations with Cuba. The 50-year policy of isolating Cuba has accomplished no objective that was ever posited for it, and it is time to re-engage. Despite this positive advancement, it is extremely unfortunate that when Secretary of State John Kerry travels to Havana to reopen the U.S. embassy this summer, most Americans will not have the freedom to join him. All Americans should have the right to travel to any country. The bipartisan Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act pending in Congress would make it possible for Americans to travel freely to Cuba, as they can to any other country. We call upon Congress to do its part in normalizing relations with Cuba by ending the travel ban and lifting the trade embargo so that Americans can engage freely with Cuba.” [NAFSA, “Agreement to Reopen Embassies Marks Symbolic Step Forward in U.S. Engagement with Cuba,” 7/1/15]

Presidential Candidate And Former Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton: “New US Embassy in Havana helps us engage Cuban people & build on efforts to support positive change. Good step for US & Cuban people.” [Twitter, 7/1/15]

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon: “The United Nations Supports Efforts To Promote Harmonious And Good Neighbourly Relations Among The States.” “The Secretary-General welcomes the announcement today that Cuba and the United States will reopen embassies in Havana and Washington, D.C.. The restoration of diplomatic ties is an important step on the path toward the normalization of relations. In keeping with the principles of its founding Charter, the United Nations supports efforts to promote harmonious and good neighbourly relations among States. The Secretary-General hopes that this historic step will benefit the peoples of both countries.” [UN Press Release, “Statement…on restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States,” 7/1/15]