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A Growing Consensus for a New Approach

Experts and community leaders recognize that it’s in the United States’ best interests to take leadership in determining U.S.-Cuba policy, instead of allowing Havana to dictate terms. There is overwhelming evidence that supporting independent Cuban entrepreneurs strengthens civil society in Cuba, and helps the Cuban people create greater economic freedom for themselves. Even the most fervent hardliners cannot argue that the policies of the last five decades had worked. One simple question remains unanswered. If the same policies haven’t worked in more than fifty years, why should we expect that they would work now? Editorials, thought leaders, and community voices are all coming to similar conclusions.

Below are some examples of the growing consensus:

Miami Herald Editorial Board Welcomes New Conversation on Cuba, Highlights Human Rights and Need to Use Policy Changes to Provide Relief For Average Cubans: “Suddenly, there appears to be movement, or at least the start of a conversation, regarding policy toward Cuba on the part of the European Union and Americans interested in the welfare of the Cuban people. This is a healthy development. No policy should be declared sacrosanct and off-limits for periodic review, particularly those framed during the height of the Cold War…It has been clear for years that attitudes toward Cuba were changing in this country, particularly among younger Cuban Americans. But Cuba’s dismal human-rights record should be the foremost consideration in any domestic dialogue about U.S. policy. Unilateral steps by the United States must be measured by the prospect that they can provide relief for average Cubans from the daily abuses they continue to suffer under the unchanging regime of the Castro brothers.” [Miami Herald, Editorial, 2/15/14]

Bloomberg Columnist Jeffrey Goldberg: Zero Officials With National Security Responsibilities Think U.S. Cuba Policy Makes Sense, New Approach Would Help Free Alan Gross. "As a general rule, if a policy hasn’t worked in more than half a century, it’s probably time to find a new policy…I can also report, based on my own data-driven journalism, that exactly zero percent of Obama administration officials with broad national security and foreign policy responsibilities think that U.S. Cuba policy makes any sense. In fact, to most foreign policy practitioners, it’s an obvious negative: U.S. relations with much of Latin America are strained precisely because of our archaic approach to the challenge of Cuba.” [Bloomberg View, “Obama shouldn’t forget our man in Havana,” 3/19/14]

Leading Miami Herald Latin America Columnist Calls for Obama to Expand Travel & Support for Entrepreneurs: “My opinion: The Atlantic Council poll is a serious poll done by serious people, but I doubt that it will have a major political impact…I would like Obama to continue expanding travel in both directions, because Cubans who come to Miami almost always go back to the island with a more favorable view of the United States than they came with. And Obama should also, by executive actions, expand trade with Cuban businesses that are not run by the island’s dictatorship.” [Miami Herald, Andres Oppenheimer: Cuba poll won’t change U.S. policy, Andres Oppenheimer, 2/12/14]

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board Calls for Change: “After 53 years, our nation’s policy of isolating Cuba has effected little change there...A free and open exchange with Cuba would benefit Florida, particularly with trade, environmental concerns and families who’ve paid a high price for little political progress… Washington should step up diplomatic efforts to prod the Cuban government toward a more cooperative stance. Freeing American hostage Alan Gross, along with other notable political prisoners, would be a good first step. The embargo made sense when Cuba was a satellite of the Soviet Union and a national security threat to the U.S. But the Soviet missiles are gone, the Cold War is over and the world has changed. Washington needs a new foreign policy that better addresses our interests with an island nation that lies just 90 miles away.” [Sun-Sentinel, Editorial, 2/13/14]

Financial Times Editorial: President Obama Should Take Further Action On Cuba Using The Executive Powers At His Disposal. “Mr. Obama has eased some restrictions on travel and remittances. He needs to go further. Although lifting the embargo fully requires an act of Congress, he has some executive powers at his disposal. Travel restrictions for US citizens should be lifted; the list of authorised exports, currently only food and medicine, expanded; commercial activity with private businesses encouraged; and Cuba removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Havana has played a crucial role in Colombia’s peace talks; Cuba’s continued inclusion, which brings tough financial strictures, makes a mockery of the list.” [Financial Times Editorial, “Time for US to Change Cuba Policy,” 2/21/14]

Financial Times: Engagement With Cuba Doesn’t Mean Ending Support For Human Rights, “Rather It Provides A More Credible Context For Criticism.” “The aim of the new approach is simple. The more restrictions there are on the island, the less Cubans have and the more subservient they become to whoever dispenses it – currently the state. Creating economic space therefore creates freedom. At the same time, engagement does not mean ending support for human rights or political liberalisation. Rather it provides a more credible context for criticism.” [Financial Times Editorial, “Time for US to Change Cuba Policy,” 2/21/14]

Bob Shrum: President Obama Should Make History By Ending “America’s Stupidest Foreign Policy.” “In reality, Obama can and should act in history-making ways, at home on issues like climate change, and overseas on the longest, if not the dumbest, American foreign-policy mistake, just 90 miles from our shores…This isn't a policy in any coherent sense of that word; it's an artifact of resentment, a self-defeating relic from another era.” [The Daily Beast, “Obama Should End America’s Stupidest Foreign Policy: Isolating Cuba,” 2/26/14]

While Helms-Burton Codified The Embargo, President Obama Has Executive Options He Should Indisputably Act On. “The president, of course, can't do it all on his own; Helms–Burton codifies the embargo. But the Cuba Study Group outlines eleven measures Obama can take-- such as authorizing ‘more imports of certain goods and services,’ permitting ‘the sale of telecommunications hardware,’ and removing the absurd designation of Cuba as ‘a state sponsor of terrorism.’ It's undeniable that this Congress won't come to its senses; it's indisputable that the president can – and should – act.” [The Daily Beast, “Obama Should End America’s Stupidest Foreign Policy: Isolating Cuba,” 2/26/14]

“For The Sake Of A Sane Foreign Policy, The President Should…Begin To End The Most The Protracted Foreign Policy Failure In Our History.” “The bitter-end exile movement, as the Atlantic Council poll demonstrates, now has a markedly diminished hold on Miami and the Cuban-American community.” [The Daily Beast, “Obama Should End America’s Stupidest Foreign Policy: Isolating Cuba,” 2/26/14]

Sacramento Bee Op-Ed: Normalizing Relations With Cuba “Will Be A Death Blow To The Greatest Ongoing Justification For Castro’s Revolution.” Markos Kounalakis wrote, “Regardless of how or when, the certain end of the formalized estrangement between these two nations will be a death blow to the greatest ongoing justification for Castro’s revolution.” [Sacramento Bee Op-Ed, “Open Cuba; close Guantanamo,” 2/20/14]

Key West Citizen Editorial: “There Seems To Be Little To Gain By Persisting In An Economic Boycott Of Cuba, And Much To Gain By Ending It.” “There seems to be little to gain by persisting in an economic boycott of Cuba, and much to gain by ending it. We do not condone political repression at home or abroad. American's freedom to travel to Cuba has for too long been restricted. A free people should not be barred by their government from traveling as ours has done. Cultural exchange and commercial development will narrow our differences. It's time for free trade and free travel with our repressed cousins, and for Cuba to join the world of nations without the imposed preconditions in place. It's time to tear down this wall.” [Key West Citizen Editorial, “It’s time for America’s Iron Curtain to fall,” 2/23/14]

FIU Cuba Research Institute Community Advisory Board member calls for new approach: “We do not seem to understand that it is in the Cuban regime’s interest for us to continue in this reactive mode whenever the ball hits us, which is usually when we least expect it to….We have not accomplished anything in more than 50 years of dismissing what the rest of the world thinks of our policy toward Cuba, and we will not until we see the irony in it and decide to change it.” [Miami Herald: “No, the rest of the world is right.” 3/20/14]

“There are still plenty of diehard anti-Castro figures in Washington. But calling the arguments they marshal threadbare is unkind to threads. Cuba does not threaten American security. It is playing a constructive role in the peace process between Colombia’s government and the FARC guerrillas. Its political system is nasty and undemocratic, but it is buttressed, not undermined, by the embargo. (The reverse is true of the standing of the United States in Latin America.) Waiting for the Castros to die makes no sense when Venezuela’s crisis presents an opportunity now to cement the process of liberalization in Cuba.

“If Congress will not budge, Mr Obama could use his executive authority to thaw relations further—loosening travel restrictions, taking Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and trying to negotiate a swap of prisoners. But that is second best. The embargo increasingly exists only because it happens to be there.” [The Economist, The Cuban Embargo: If not now, when?, April 5, 2014]