AUSTIN, TEXAS– With Fidel Castro announcing he will be stepping down, the question is would Clinton and Obama sit down with whoever leads the Cuban dictatorship in the future. Obama raised a question of whether he is backtracking on previous statements about normalizing relations with Cuba.
Clinton said, We should have full diplomatic engagement, where appropriate. But a presidential visit should not be offered and given without some evidence that it will demonstrate the kind of progressthat is in our interest and, in this case, in the interest of the Cuban people.
Obama said there should be a meeting with no preconditions and then set down a few.
I would meet without preconditions, although Senator Clinton is right that there has to be preparation. It is very important for us to make sure that there was an agenda and on that agenda was human
rights, releasing of political prisoners, opening up the press. And that preparation might take some time.
But I do think that it is important for the United States not just to talk to its friends but also to talk to its enemies, he said. Thats a line Obama often uses in decribing how he would approach diplomacy.
He added, One other thing that I’ve said as a show of good faith, that
we’re interested in pursuing potentially a new relationship, what I’ve
called for is a loosening of the restrictions on remittances from
family members to the people of Cuba as well as travel restrictions
for family members who want to visit their family members in Cuba.
And I think that initiating that change in policy as a start and then
suggesting that an agenda get set up is something that could be
useful, but I would not normalize relations until we started seeing
some of the progress that Senator Clinton talked about.
Preconditions, yes or no?
The Republican National Committee shot off a release trying to make the case Obama was backing off previous support for normalized relations with Cuba, quoting from Obama’s 2003 IVI-IPO (Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization) questionnaire where he said : I believe that normalization of relations with Cuba would help the oppressed and poverty-stricken Cuban people while setting the stage for a more democratic government once Castro inevitably leaves the scene.