The email came with this introduction by Dan Schwerin, Clinton's director of speechwriting:
Team, attached please find a draft of HRC's Cuba speech for Friday in Miami. We make the case for lifting the embargo and pursuing a strategy of engagement, and then stepping back to offer a vision for U.S. leadership in the Americas and a broader contrast on foreign policy with the Republicans. In this draft we don't hit Rubio or Jeb by name, so that's one question to consider. HRC is excited about this one and thinks we're in a pretty good place, so that's encouraging. Would be great to hear any comments or concerns on Thursday morning. Also, most of you have met our new speechwriter Megan Rooney, who wrote for HRC for four years before going to work for President Obama. I am super excited to have her on board and I'm sure you'll soon love her as much as I do. Later this evening she'll be sending around an Urban League draft. Thanks as always DanHILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
REMARKS ON CUBA
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY
FRIDAY, JULY 31, 2015
Thank you. I’m delighted to be here at Florida International University. You can feel the energy here. A place where people of all backgrounds and walks of life work hard, do their part, and get ahead. That’s the promise of America that has drawn generations of immigrants to our shores, and it’s a reality right here at FIU.
Today, I want to talk with you about a subject that has stirred passionate debate in this city and beyond for decades, but is now entering a crucial new phase. America’s approach to Cuba is at a crossroads, and the upcoming presidential election will determine whether we chart a new path forward or turn back to the old ways of the past. We must decide between engagement and embargo. Between embracing fresh thinking and returning to Cold War deadlock. And the choices we make will have lasting consequences not just for 11 million Cubans, but also for American leadership across our Hemisphere and around the world.
I know that for many in this room and throughout the Cuban-American community, this debate is no intellectual exercise -- it’s deeply personal. For those who were sent as children to live with strangers during the Peter Pan airlift… for families who arrived here during the Mariel boatlift with only the clothes on their backs… for son and daughters who could not bury their parents back home… for all who have suffered and waited and longed for change to come to the land, “where the palm grows,” as Jose Marti put it. And, yes, for a rising generation less burdened by the legacy of history and eager to shape a new and better future.
I wish every Cuban citizen could spend an hour walking around Miami and see what you’ve built here… how you have turned it into a dynamic global city. “The capital of Latin America.” How Cuban-Americans have succeeded as entrepreneurs and civic leaders, It would not take them long to start demanding similar opportunities and success back home.
I understand the skepticism in this community about the new policy of engagement toward Cuba. I’ve been skeptical too. For fifty years, you’ve been promised progress. And for fifty years, those promises have foundered on the cold, hard reality of Castro’s tyranny. But that is exactly why now is the time for a new approach. We can’t wait any longer for a failed policy to bear fruit. We have to seize this moment to bring change to an island where it’s desperately needed.
I did not come to this position lightly. I well remember what happened to previous attempts at engagement. In the 1990s, Castro responded to quiet diplomacy by shooting the unarmed Brothers to the Rescue out of the sky. And with their deaths in mind, I supported the Helms-Burton Act to tighten the embargo. Twenty years later, the regime’s human rights abuses continue. Imprisoning dissidents. Cracking down on free expression and the Internet. Undermining democracy across the region. Beating and harassing the courageous Ladies in White. Anyone who thinks we can trust this regime hasn’t learned the lessons of history.
But as Secretary of State, it became clear to me that our policy of isolating Cuba was strengthening the Castros’ grip on power rather than weakening it – and harming our broader efforts to restore American leadership across the hemisphere.
The Castros were able to blame all of the island’s woes on the U.S. embargo, distracting from the regime’s failures and delaying their day of reckoning with the Cuban people. We were unintentionally helping the regime keep Cuba a closed and controlled society rather than working to open it up to positive outside influences the way we did so effectively with the old Soviet bloc and elsewhere.
So in 2009, we tried something new. The Obama administration made it easier for Cuban Americans to visit and send money to family and friends on the island. No one expected miracles, but it was a first step toward exposing the Cuban people to new ideas, values, and perspectives. I remember seeing a CNN report that summer about a Cuban father living and working in the United States who hadn’t seen his baby boy back home for a year-and-a-half because of travel restrictions. Our reforms made it possible for father and son to finally reunite. It was just one story. Just one family. But it felt like the start of something important.
Over the following years, the number of Cuban-Americans visiting the island nearly tripled. In 2011, we further loosened restrictions on cash remittances sent back to Cuba and opened the way for other Americans – clergy, students and teachers, community leaders – to visit and engage directly with the Cuban people.
They brought with them new hope and support for struggling families, aspiring entrepreneurs, and brave civil society activists. They also brought cell phones. Hundreds of thousands of cell phones that connected Cubans to each other and the wider world.
The influx of outside funds and encouragement, plus modest economic reforms, helped private-sector entrepreneurs start small businesses… more than 400,000… in a country still ruled by the Communist Party.
Not enough, but a start.
The results convinced me and President Obama that building stronger ties between Cubans and Americans could be the best way to promote political and economic change on the island. By the end of my term as Secretary, I told the President that I had come to believe that it was time to end the failed embargo and double down on a strategy of engagement. That would strip the Castro regime of its excuses and force it to grapple with the demands and aspirations of the Cuban people. Instead of keeping change out, as it has for decades, the regime would have to figure out how to adapt to a rapidly transforming society.
I know some critics of this approach point to other countries that remain authoritarian despite decades of diplomatic and economic engagement. And it’s true that political change will not come quickly or easily to Cuba. But look around the world at countries that have made the transition from autocracy to democracy – from Eastern Europe to East Asia to Latin America. Again and again we see that engagement with the outside world doesn’t hold back change, it hastens it.
The future for Cuba is not foreordained. But there is good reason to believe that once it gets going, this dynamic will be especially powerful on an island just 90 miles from the largest, most vibrant economy in the world. Just 90 miles away from 1.5 million Cuban-Americans whose success provides a compelling advertisement for the benefits of democracy and an open society.
So I have supported President Obama and Secretary Kerry as they’ve advanced this strategy. They’ve taken historic steps forward: Securing the release of Alan Gross, a USAID contractor who arrested for bringing computer equipment to the small, elderly Jewish community in Havana. Re-establishing diplomatic relations and reopening our embassy in Havana. Further expanding opportunities for travel and commerce. Calling on Congress to finally drop the embargo.
That last step is crucial, because without it, this progress could falter.
We have arrived at a decisive moment. The Cuba embargo needs to go, once and for all. Even some Republicans in on Capitol Hill are starting to recognize the urgency of moving forward. It’s time for their leaders to either get on board or get out of the way.
Today I am calling on Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell to step up and answer the pleas of the Cuban people. By large majorities, they want a closer relationship with America. They want to buy our goods, read our books, surf our web, and learn from our people. They want to bring their country into the 21st century. That is the road toward democracy and dignity. We should walk it together.
We can’t go back to a failed policy that restricts Cuban-Americans’ ability to travel and support family and friends... We can’t block American businesses that could help free enterprise take root in Cuban soil… or stop American religious groups and academics and activists from establishing contacts and partnerships on the ground.
If we go backward, no one will benefit more than the hardliners in Havana. In fact, there may be no stronger argument for engagement than the fact that Cuba hardliners are so opposed to it. They don’t want strong connections with the United States. They don’t want Cuban Americans traveling to the island. They don’t want American students and clergy and NGO activists interacting with the Cuban people. That’s the last thing they want. So that’s what we need.
Unfortunately, most of the Republican candidates for President would play right into the hard-liners’ hands. They’d cut the Cuban people off from direct contact with American free-market capitalism and reverse the progress we’ve made. That would be a strategic error for the United States and a tragedy for the millions of Cubans who yearn for closer ties.
They have it backwards: Engagement isn’t a gift to the Castros. It’s a threat to the Castros. An American embassy in Havana isn’t a concession. It’s the tip of the spear. Lifting the embargo doesn’t set back the cause of freedom. It advances it.
Fundamentally, most Republican candidates still view Cuba -- and Latin America more broadly -- through an outdated Cold War lens. Instead of opportunities to be seized, they see only threats to be feared. They refuse to learn the lessons of the past or pay attention to what’s worked and what hasn’t. Ideology trumps evidence. And so they’re incapable of moving us forward.
As President, I would increase American influence in Cuba, rather than reduce it. I would work with Congress to lift the embargo. And I would also pursue additional steps.
First, we should help more Americans go to Cuba. If Congress won’t act, I would use executive authority to make it easier for more Americans to visit the island to support private business and engage the Cuban people.
Second, I would use our new presence and connections to more effectively support human rights and civil society in Cuba. I believe that as our influence expands among the Cuban people, our diplomacy can help carve out political space on the island in a way we never could before. We’ll follow the lead of Pope Francis, who will carry a powerful message of empowerment when he visits Cuba in September. I would direct U.S. diplomats to make it a priority to build relationships with more Cubans, especially those starting businesses and pushing boundaries.
We should be under no illusions that the regime will end its repressive ways any time soon, as its continued use of short-term detentions demonstrates. As the old guard feels increasingly threatened by the pace of change, it will lash out. So we have to redouble our efforts, including maintaining sanctions on specific human-rights violators; restricting access to tools of repression while expanding access to the tools of dissent and free expression; and advocating for the rights of reformers and political prisoners in ways that we simply could not when we stuck to a strategy of isolation. [maybe more here]
Third, I would focus on expanding communications and commercial links to and among the Cuban people. Just five percent of Cubans have access to the Internet today. We want more American companies building networks that will open the free flow of information, so I would encourage joint ventures. Airbnb is already helping travelers connect to Cuban entrepreneurs. Companies like Google and Twitter are exploring opportunities. Their presence could provide a new platform for Cuba's entrepreneurs and activists, and put pressure on the regime’s outdated and repressive model.
I would convene and connect U.S. business leaders from many fields to advance this strategy, and we’ll look to the Cuban-American community to take the lead. No one is better positioned to bring expertise, resources, and vision to this effort – and no one understands better than you how transformative it can be.
[Just listen to Carlos Gutierrez, a successful Cuban-American business leader who served as President Bush’s Secretary of Commerce: “Today, I am cautiously optimistic for the first time in 56 years,” he recently noted. “I see a glimmer of hope that, with Cuba allowing even a small amount of entrepreneurship and many American companies excited about entering a new market, we can actually help the Cuban people.”]
Now, I know that the Castro regime will try to limit and control the spread of private enterprise on the island. That’s what they’ve been doing for decades. But there are already more than 1 million self-employed Cubans. It’s going to be hard to put that genie back in the bottle.
We should help Americans invest in those small independent businesses. I would expand the list of Cuban products that can be imported to the United States and raise the limits on non-family remittances.
Let Raul explain to tell his people why he wants to prevent American investment in bicycle repair shops, in restaurants, in barbershops and nail salons. Let him try to put up barriers to the American technology and innovation his people crave.
Finally, we need to use our leadership across the Americas to mobilize more support for the Cuban people and their aspirations. Just as the United States needed a new approach to Cuba, the region needs one as well. Latin American countries and leaders have run out of excuses for not standing up for the fundamental freedoms of the Cuban people. No more brushing things under the rug. No more apologizing. It is time for them to step up.
I would enlist institutions like the Organization for American States in this effort as well. And I would support institutions like the InterAmerican Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund that can foster reform.
Not insignificantly, new regional cooperation on Cuba will also open other opportunities for the United States across Latin America. For years, our unpopular policy towards Cuba held back our influence and leadership. We were isolated in our opposition to opening up the island. Summit meetings were consumed by the same old debates. Regional spoilers like Venezuela took advantage of the disagreements to advance their own agendas and undermine the United States. Now we have the chance for a fresh start in the Americas.
Strategically, this is a big deal. No region in the world is more important to our long-term prosperity. And no region in the world is better positioned to emerge as a new force for global peace and progress.
Many Republicans may still think of Latin America as a land of crime and coups rather than a place where free markets and free people are thriving. But they’ve got it wrong. Latin America is home to 600 million people, dozens of vibrant democracies, expanding middle classes, abundant energy supplies, and a combined GDP of more than $5 trillion.
I see our increasing interdependence as a comparative advantage to be embraced, not feared. The United States needs to build on what I call the “power of proximity.” It’s not just geography. It’s common values and common culture; it’s shared interests that could power a new era of partnership and prosperity.
Closer ties across Latin America will help our economy at home and it will also strengthen our hand around the world, especially in the Asia-Pacific. There’s enormous potential for cooperation on clean energy and combatting climate change. And much work to be done together to take on persistent challenges from crime to drugs to poverty.
So the United States needs to lead in the Americas. Across the board, we need more engagement, not less. And if we don’t, make no mistake, others will. China is eager to extend its influence. There are still plenty of regional actors who don’t share our values and are hostile to our interests. Strong, principled American leadership is the only answer. That was my approach as Secretary of State, and that will be my priority as President.
It’s often said that every election is about the future. But this time, I feel it even more powerfully.
Americans have worked so hard to climb out of the hole George Bush left behind. Families took second jobs and extra shifts. They found a way to make it work. And now our economy is growing again.
Slowly but surely we also repaired America’s tarnished reputation. We ended old wars, rebuilt core alliances, and began new partnerships. We got back to the time-tested values that made our country a beacon for the world. We learned to lead in new ways for a complex and changing age. And America is safer and stronger as a result.
We can’t afford to let the Republicans take us backwards and rip away all the progress we’ve made.
On Cuba, they’d take us back to a failed policy that did nothing to advance freedom on the island but did a lot to hold back our interests across the region. They’d choose ideology over diplomacy.
They’d do the same thing on Iran. Spurning a deal that closes avenues to a nuclear weapon while offering no viable alternatives.
In both cases, the Republican approach emboldens hardliners, alienates allies, and accomplishes nothing.
We can’t go back to cowboy diplomacy and reckless war-mongering.
We can’t go back to a go-it-alone foreign policy that views force as a first choice rather than a last resort.
We’ve paid too high a price in lives, power, and prestige to make those same mistakes again.
Instead we need a foreign policy for the future. With creative, confident leadership that harnesses all of America’s strength, smarts, and values.
I believe the future holds far more opportunities than threats if we shape global events rather than be shaped by them.
That’s what I’ll do as President, starting right here in our own hemisphere.
I’m running to build an America for tomorrow, not yesterday.
For struggling, the striving, and the successful…
For the young entrepreneur in Little Havana who dreams of expanding to Old Havana.
For the grandmother who’s never lost hope of seeing freedom come to the homeland she left long ago.
For the families who are separated and all those who have built new lives in a new land.
I’m running for everyone who’s ever been knocked down, but refused to be knocked out. I’m running for you.
Thank you and may God bless you.