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President Obama’s Visit to Cuba: Advancing Human Rights & American Interests

President Obama’s decision to visit Cuba underscores that, as president, any one of the Republican candidates would threaten the significant progress that has been made under Democratic leadership on a wide range of issues. His visit to Cuba is intended to advance American interests in the entire hemisphere while elevating our concerns about the human rights of the Cuban people. That’s why one of the most prominent human rights advocacy organizations, Human Rights Watch, welcomed the President’s new policy as “a crucial step toward removing a major obstacle to progress on human rights on the island.”

Yet Republicans like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush would drag us right back to where we were.

  • Marco Rubio today called the President’s upcoming trip “counterproductive and damaging to our national security interests” even though the Tampa Bay Times reported ‎that as a U.S. Senator he sent senior staff on a junket to Communist China paid for by the Chinese government. The newspaper described the China junkets as “a popular perk on Capitol Hill” and noted that they “come with luxury hotel stays and visits to top tourist sites” with the cost potentially exceeding $10,000 per person.
  • Ted Cruz opposed the President’s trip and said he would not visit Cuba “as long as the Castros are in power,” seemingly unaware Raul Castro has already announced plans to step down in two years.
  • Jeb Bush called President Obama’s visit to Cuba “a tragedy.”

Particularly in light of Castro’s plans to step down just a year into the next President’s first term, this is a crucial moment for the United States to lead and develop ties with an emerging post-Castro Cuba rather than cede ground to the Chinese or Russians, who want to continue to dominate the island. The President’s new policy is already making a difference:

  • Without any diplomatic engagement, the U.S. government could not directly challenge the Cuban government over human rights violations. With an embassy in place now, our diplomats have been able to identify and raise concerns in a way not previously possible. And human rights concerns are getting more attention than ever as a result ‎of renewed engagement.
  • For decades the United Nations voted nearly unanimously every year to condemn America’s sanctions. Now, allies like Mexico and members of the European Union are advancing our shared interests, including on human rights.\

“The message President Obama’s visit will send to the majority of Cubans who were born after Castro took power cannot be understated. Their future is now in their own hands. The calls from Republican presidential candidates to drag America back to our old policy would only hurt America’s foreign policy interests and stand in the way of our shared goal of advancing the human rights of the Cuban people.” - DNC Communications Director Luis Miranda




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