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Jared P.
Democrat CO 2

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  • United States-Cuban Relations

    by Representative Jared Polis

    Posted on 2015-01-07

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    POLIS. Mr. Speaker, I thank Congresswoman Lee for her constant leadership on this issue.

    When I was born in 1975, the embargo with Cuba was already more than a decade old. I never knew a time when Americans could go to Cuba or legally import goods and products from Cuba.

    Growing up, I remember the end of the cold war, when the Soviet Union fell. The last real excuse for the treatment of Cuba was that they were allied with the Soviet Union during the cold war.

    Well, the Soviet Union fell, Soviet subsidies and support for Cuba ended, and I really began to wonder why we continued this failed cold war policy of an embargo--travel embargo and trade embargo against Cuba. Presumably, it was designed to bring Fidel Castro's regime down.

    Now, again, this policy predates my birth by 10 years. It actually means that he is the longest-serving head of state in the entire world. Obviously, it didn't work. It didn't work. Are we going to keep doing the same thing? Maybe a different path would have worked, and that is what the President has now proposed.

    For more than 50 years, we have isolated our southern neighbor, restricting trade, travel, commerce, as well as [[Page H100]] the flow of ideas, discussion, cultural exchange, the very things that can lead to a change and more support for human rights within Cuba.

    It really defies logic to expect that the status quo that has led to Fidel Castro being the longest regime and head of state in the world will somehow lead to the end of the very regime that it has actually helped to preserve.

    Unfortunately, the sanctions have hurt everyday Cubans without mobilizing political change or expanding their freedoms. Our policy of isolation was counterproductive, and it only prolonged the suffering and lack of freedom of the Cuban people. Our present landscape is particularly promising for restoring the U.S.-Cuba relationship.

    Now, let me be clear. Just as there are many countries that we have normal relations with that we continue to make sure we are outspoken about any human rights violations, of course, if there are political dissidents or others that are improperly jailed in Cuba, you will hear Members of this body, including myself, speaking out, just as we do for the oppression of Tibetans in China, while we continue to support ongoing normalized relationships with China, just as we do in countries where we want stronger labor laws or stronger anti-child labor laws, yet continue to have a basic trade and travel relationship.

    Cuba can do better. Frankly, Mr. Speaker, America can do better with regard to human rights, and we discussed that in different contexts about expanding civil liberties for all Americans; but, yes, Cuba should do better.

    Guess what? The way to help show and lead Cuba to the promised lands of human rights and democracy is by engaging the Cuban people and by engaging the regime and showing them the many benefits that dealing with their neighbor to the north can bring.

    Now, let us make sure we are not mistaken here; the President's actions don't end the embargo. That requires congressional action, as outlined in the Helms-Burton Act of 1996. What President Obama did is he exercised his legal right to establish diplomatic relations and expand travel, facilitate remittances, and promote commerce.

    Congress does need to act. The President's step alone is a great step in the right direction, but to fully normalize our relationship with Cuba, Congress will need to act, and I continue to sponsor legislation that will help that occur.

    Of course, we should continue to call for transparency with regard to Cuba's human rights record, to speak out for political dissidents, just as we do in dozens and hundreds of countries that we have normal trade and diplomatic relations with.

    I was proud to sign a letter authored by our great leader, Barbara Lee, on this issue, encouraging President Obama to use the 2015 summit as a platform for stimulating this type of productive, regional dialogue.

    Now, decades of adversity between the United States and Cuba cannot be wiped away with a stroke of the pen. It will take time.

    {time} 1630 But together we can build bonds of trust between the Cuban people and ourselves, and we can overcome the decades of mistrust and propaganda on both sides to lead to the betterment of the relationship between the Cuban people and the American people and the greater prosperity to both peoples through trade and commerce.

    I strongly support continuing to move forward to engage with Cuba and will continue to support the President's actions and similar legislative action here.

    Welcome to our new Cuban friends--bienvenidos a nuestros amigos nuevos Cubanos.

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