Dodd: Improve relations with Cuba
By Marcus Hatfield
U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd on Wednesday renewed his call to improve relations with Cuba and ease the United States’ “isolationist policy” toward the communist island nation.
Dodd, D-Conn., told reporters via conference call that he visited Cuba over the past weekend, meeting with a number of Cuban officials though not Cuban President Raul Castro and touring communities in the western part of the country that were heavily damaged by hurricanes.
He took the trip, he said, because he thought recent economic changes in Cuba presented an opportunity to improve the U.S. relationship with that country.
“These announcements over the last several weeks are fundamental changes in economic policy,” Dodd said, adding that for decades he’s been closely watching the situation in Cuba. “I honestly believe that we’re fairly close to maybe some fundamental change and some opportunities here that since 1968 haven’t been available.
“I thought it’d be interesting to probe to see to what extent are they more permanent changes, or are they just temporary ones, and to what extent are there additional opportunities to see if we can’t ease the bilateral relationship and thus help promote the kind of changes that I think could have occurred years ago had we changed policies,” he added.
The Cuban government recently announced that it will begin loosening restrictions on small business ownership.
These changes, Dodd said, are more significant and deeper than the changes the country instituted in the early 1990s after the Soviet Union left.
But the changes aren’t all good, Dodd said. The government also announced that it will slash 500,000 government jobs over the next several months.
Easing travel restrictions and lifting the decadeslong trade embargo would benefit both Cuba and the U.S., Dodd said.
“As Cuba transitions, I think it’s an opportunity for us in this country to also reassess the policies on travel and the embargo as well to try to expedite the kind of changes we’re seeing not just economically, but as well as politically in the country,” Dodd said.
This U.S. relationship with Cuba is hard to explain when compared to the U.S. relationship with Vietnam, “where 55,000 Americans lost their lives less than a generation ago,” he said.
“And yet we have full diplomatic relations. There’s no restriction on travel to Vietnam or from them to us,” Dodd added. “There’s a lot of investment going back and forth and both countries have benefited.
“I think we need to move in that direction so that people on the island of Cuba, not to mention the diaspora of Cubans, can begin to take advantage,” he said.
The Obama administration has taken some important steps toward Cuba, such as easing some of the restrictions on Cuban Americans traveling to Cuba and sending remittances, but Dodd said he would like to see more change. He said he thinks there are enough votes in Congress to ease travel restrictions to Cuba, but also said he didn’t expect any legislation to pass.
Dodd said he also talked to officials about Alan Gross, the 60-year-old Maryland contractor man who was arrested in Havana in December on suspicion of spying and has been held without charge ever since. Dodd said he asked for Gross’ release and that he wasn’t permitted to see Gross.
Copyright © 2010 - Journal Inquirer
Sen. Dodd is spot on in his analysis of Cuba and the dead end policy of the US. The question is will he make a serious effort to change things before he leaves office or are they just nice words as he closes the door.
Will he battle to overcome Sen. Menendez influence with the White House so the President announces new already approved regulations for non-tourist people-to-people travel?
Will he use his position as subcommittee chair to bring the travel and trade bill to the full committee and the Senate floor during the lame duck session?
Let's put the Peace Corps spirit to work in the underdeveloped corrupt society of Congress!
Fund for Reconciliation and Development
Peace Corps Peru, 1964-66
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