Learn About Cuba Seminar

Saturday September 27 2008 on Cape Cod Massachusetts

Presented by Havana Journal Inc in association with the Latin America Working Group

and the Center for Cuban Studies, featuring Dick Cluster author of History of Havana.

Statement from Congressman Bill Delahunt recognizing Learn About Cuba Seminar on Cape Cod

Learn About Cuba Seminar - September 27, 2008

Cape Cod Cultural Center - South Yarmouth - Cape Cod Massachusetts

I want to welcome everyone to this event.  I apologize for not being able to attend in person. But as you are well aware, Congress is still working on a package to resolve the financial crisis, and that has forced my staff and I to stay in Washington.  So I have asked my constituent, Rob Sequin, to read this note to you in my stead.

As most of you know, US policy towards Cuba has been a complete failure.  For almost fifty years, we’ve maintained an embargo that does nothing to help ordinary Cubans – and restricts the rights of Americans. 

Rather than isolating Cuba, this policy has isolated us.  Particularly since we don’t have such stringent restrictions on countries like North Korea, Iran, or China – all of which are authoritarian regimes that challenge US interests.  In fact, some of the worst dictatorships in the world, such as Egypt, Uzbekistan, and Equatorial Guinea, are actually our allies! 

And we wonder why our standing in the world has dropped so low.  As the Foreign Affairs subcommittee that I chair detailed in a recent report – based on a series of ten hearings with pollsters and regional analysts – our image is so terrible not because foreigners hate our freedoms, but because we are viewed as hypocrites.  Our policy towards Cuba certainly fits that bill.

Particularly obscene are the reforms that the Bush Administration imposed in 2004 that specifically targeted Cuban-Americans.  Now, Cuban-Americans can only visit their families once every three years, with no exceptions – not to visit a terminally ill child, not to attend the funeral of a parent, and not to help a sister’s family made homeless by the hurricane.  Remittances are limited to $100 per month, and clothing, personal hygiene items, and other necessities are prohibited from inclusion in gift packages.

I and my Congressional colleagues in the bipartisan Cuba Working Group have fought for years to change this policy, but it hasn’t been easy.  There are entrenched interests in both Washington and Miami who are perfectly happy with the status quo.  And while the Cuban-American community is changing and becoming more moderate, these interests – because of their financial resources and political connections – still play an outsized role in determining US policy towards Cuba.

With a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck, that will change in November.  While John McCain sticks with the hard-line dinosaurs of Miami, Barack Obama has been listening to the next generation of Cuban-Americans and supports many of the changes that I advocate.  And two of the most extremist voices in Florida – the brothers Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart – are facing the most determined challengers for their Congressional seats ever in Raul Martinez and Joe Garcia.  A victory in any one of these races will be an earthquake in the Cuban-American community, one that will finally break the power of the special interests and allow us to begin to craft a new policy.

Until then, like all of you gathered here today, I am going to continue my efforts for a more rational, moral approach in dealing with Cuba.  One that will help ordinary Cubans and ordinary Americans.  So I want to thank all of you for the hard work you have done.  And I urge you to keep up the fight.  Because we are on the side of good, and we will ultimately prevail.

Congressman William Delahunt