Senator Chris Dodd's Reaction to
Bush Administration's Cuba Policy
Press Release 20may02
Senator Dodd is the Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs
First I want to join with my colleagues in commending President Jimmy Carter for his very successful visit to Cuba. His visit has demonstrated that an honest and respectful discussion of differences between the United States and Cuba is possible.
He rightfully called upon President Castro to respect the human rights of Cuban citizens and to allow for an open dialogue among the various sectors of Cuban society. He also called upon the United States to lift the embargo and allow Americans to travel freely to the Island.
President Carter's visit has opened up opportunities which could lead to improved relations and a more political space inside Cuba.
The operative word is could.
Sadly the Bush administration has not sought to take advantage of President Carter's visit. Instead they have responded in very petty ways. First, by making contradictory statements about Cuba's alleged development and export of biological weapons and second by holding today's press conference rejecting President Carter's call for revisions in US policy.
Today President Bush has set forth a laundry list of actions that the Castro government must take before the US takes even one step toward modifying US policies. By doing so he has guaranteed that the current political system in Cuba will remain the same – as it has for the last forty years that the US has pursued this ill advised policy.
The specific package of proposals announced by the Administration is much ado about nothing . Direct mail service – not likely to happen without the cooperation of the Cuban government, nor are scholarship programs for Cuban students. Humanitarian assistance by non-governmental organizations – this is already ongoing. Direct assistance to political dissidents – they have rejected it in the past and did so today on CNN.
Throwing worn out wallpaper over a cracked foundation – which is what the Bush Administration proposal amounts to -- doesn't solve the problem. We need a fundamental change in the way we look at Cuba.
A number of prominent Cuban dissidents interviewed today shortly after the announcement were critical of a number of elements in the package and indicated that they believed that President Carter's approach was far more constructive.
The Bush and Castro administrations are more alike than they are different. Both refuse to listen to the voices of their citizens calling for change. US/Cuban relations are held hostage to a small minority in each country. President Bush confirms that belief by getting on Air Force One this afternoon to fly to Florida to attend a fundraiser for his Brother Jeb in Little Havana.
That a small minority holds sway in Cuba isn't surprising – it is a dictatorship. However that it does in the US is disturbing. We have a right to expect something different from our own government which after all is a democracy.
President Bush should listen to the voices of the people he has been elected to serve. He should listen to the brave Cubans who have remained on the Island to work for peaceful change. It is clear from today's announcement that he has done neither.
Today I am announcing my intention to hold hearings in June after the Memorial Day recess on the bill Bridges to the Cuban People which I introduced last year and which is cosponsored by twenty-six of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I will also be consulting with Senator Biden, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, to find a date for committee action on the bill. I know that our colleagues from the House are working on a similar agenda.
The US Congress and the American people are not frozen in the past as Presidents Bush and Castro appear to be. We are working to change our policy. We believe the time has come to try something different. Votes in the House and Senate demonstrate that as do recent US public opinion polls. We are committed to developing a new and more constructive policy toward Cuba – one that provides hope and the prospect for peaceful change. We believe that a majority of our colleagues will support this approach.
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