Prominent USA Personalities Urge Obama to Deepen Relationship with Cuba

By Café Fuerte

Old Havana photo by Elio Delgado Valdes.
Old Havana photo by Elio Delgado Valdes.

HAVANA TIMES — On the eve of a major speech on the state of the nation and the start of high-level talks in Havana, over 70 prominent individuals from the United States wrote to President Barack Obama asking him to deepen the changes in favor of the normalization of relations with Cuba.

“We ask you to work with Congress to update the legislative framework in relation to Cuba to also reflect the realities of the 21st century. Meanwhile, we look forward to further progress in improving cooperation between the US and Cuba on issues of national interest and are willing to support this new policy of constructive dialogue and rapprochement between the United States and the Cuban people,” says the letter, signed by influential figures in American politics, business and finance, including a score of Cuban Americans.

The letter also recognizes the obstacles in Congress to advance the new White House policy, and insists that the negotiations with Havana include the protection and preservation of fundamental rights for Cuban citizens on the island.

Creativity to Face the Challenges

The Havana "Malecon" Seawall.  Foto Ernesto González
The Havana “Malecon” Seawall. Foto Ernesto González

“That same creativity in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, should be brought to the arena of human rights where recent experience shows the importance of following an approach based on transparency and the fundamental principles,” says the text, released Monday.

Among the signatories are Republican and Democratic politicians and former senior military officers. Several of them played important roles in US policy toward Cuba and Latin America over the last three decades.

George Shultz, secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, three former secretaries of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Jeff Davidow, Alec Watson and Arturo Valenzuela, two former heads of the US Interests Section in Havana, Vicky Huddleston and Michael Palmry, former NATO supreme commander and former commander of the US Southern Command James Stavridis, former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, all appear as senders of the letter.

In addition two former Cuban American officials of the Obama administration, former Secretary of Defense Frank Mora and former Secretary of Commerce, Fran Sánchez as well as former Congressman Joe Garcia, Ambassador Paul Cejas, and the business entrepreneurs Alfonso and Andres Fanjul, Carlos Saladrigas, Joe and Ricky Arreola, and Mike Fernandez.

Also signing is the philosopher Francis Fukuyama, the author of the theory of the end of history.

This is the full text of the letter and list of signatories:

January 19, 2015

The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House Washington, DC 20500

Open Letter to President Obama: SUPPORT FOR A NEW COURSE ON CUBA
Dear Mr. President,

We write to commend you on the historic actions you are taking to update America’s policy toward Cuba and Cuban citizens. Our new posture of engagement will advance our national interests and our values by empowering the Cuban people’s capacity to work toward a more democratic and prosperous country— conditions that are very much in the U.S. interests. Many of the signers of this letter wrote to you last year calling for exactly these types of changes. We appreciate that you not only recognized that the moment had come to act but did so boldly. Both that original letter and this one are examples of the broad support these changes have from across the political spectrum. We may disagree on a number of issues, but we’ve found common ground for a simple reason; our fifty-four-year-old approach intended to promote human rights and democracy in Cuba has failed.

It has also been clear that the reforms you announced in 2009 have helped to build the foundation for positive change by helping Cuban-Americans reunite with and better support their families on the island. The free flow of information, improved communications, expanded remittances and commerce, and support for Cuban civil society have also helped the Cuban people take greater ownership of their own lives. Access to the Internet and modern communications tools in today’s world have become basic rights, because they are paramount to socioeconomic freedom and mobility.

Accordingly, we are encouraged by your declaration that the U.S. Government will continue to call on Havana to respect the human rights of the Cuban people. We applaud your guarantees that the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture and the International Red Cross will travel to the island. Your clear support for facilitating people-to-people engagement affirms the enduring belief that the American people are the best ambassadors of our values. We hope future efforts by the Administration will be matched by quick adoption of streamlined regulations that fulfill your intent and we will continue to monitor those developments.

Bringing Alan Gross home to his loved ones was an indisputable testament to the power of principled diplomatic engagement. That same creativity in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges must be brought to the human rights arena, where recent experience shows the importance of transparent and principled approaches.

The Summit of the Americas presents one such opportunity. America should never shy away from defending and promoting our values, and your decision to attend the gathering in Panama was the correct one. After several decades in which democracy and the rule of law have been strengthened throughout the hemisphere, the United States must continue to lead and challenge our partners to ensure that this region remains a beacon for human rights in the world.

Mr. President, we also call on you to work with Congress to update the legislative framework with regard to Cuba so that it, too, reflects 21st century realities. In the meantime, we look forward to continued progress in improving U.S.-Cuban cooperation on matters of national interest and stand ready to support this new policy of constructive engagement and U.S. outreach to the Cuban people.

Respectfully,

John Adams, Brigadier General, U.S. Army (Retired); former Deputy U.S. Military
Representative to NATO; former Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, U.S. Army

Gustavo Arnavat, former U.S. Executive Director at the Inter-American Development Bank

Joe Arriola, former Manager, City of Miami, Florida

Ricky Arriola, CEO, Inktel

Bruce Babbitt, former Governor of Arizona; former U.S. Secretary of the Interior

Harriet Babbitt, former U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States

Samuel R. Berger, Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group, National Security Advisor (1997-2000)

Tomas Bilbao, Executive Director, Cuba Study Group

Carol Browner, former EPA Administrator; former Director of White House Office of Climate Change and Energy Policy

Paul L. Cejas, former U.S. Ambassador and Chairman, PLC Investments, Inc.

Gustavo Cisneros, Chairman, Cisneros Group of Companies

Jon Cowan, President, Third Way

Chet Culver, former Governor of Iowa

Jeffrey Davidow, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere

Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont

Larry Diamond, Director, Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law,
Stanford University

Tom Downey, former U.S. Congressman

Anita Dunn, Managing Director, SKDKnickerbocker Communications

Andres Fanjul, Fanjul Group

Alfonso Fanjul, Fanjul Group

Christopher Findlater

Richard Feinberg, former Latin American Advisor to the White House; Professor, University of California, San Diego

Mike Fernandez, Chairman, MBF Healthcare Partners

The Right Reverend Leo Frade, Episcopal Bishop of Southeast Florida

Pedro A. Freyre, Partner, Akerman LLP

Francis Fukuyama, Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for
International Studies, Stanford University

Joe Garcia, former U.S. Congressman; former Executive Director, Cuban-American National Foundation

Maria Garcia Berry, CEO, CRL Associates, Inc.

Tim Gill, Founder and Chairman, Gill Foundation

Dan Glickman, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture; former U.S. Congressman

Felice Gorordo, CEO, Clear Path

Lee Hamilton, former U.S. House Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

David Hernandez, Co-Founder and CEO, Liberty Power

Ricardo Herrero, Executive Director, #CubaNow

Vicki Huddleston, former U.S. Ambassador and Chief of the U.S. Interests Section, Havana

Peter J. Johnson, Associate to David Rockefeller

James R. Jones, Chairman, ManattJones Global Strategies

Wendy W. Luers, President, The Foundation for a Civil Society

Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty III, Chairman, McLarty Associates

Sascha Meinrath, Founder, Open Technology Institute at New America

Eduardo Mestre, Senior Advisor at Evercore; Board member of Avis Budget and Comcast Corporation

Scott Miller, Board Member, Gill Foundation

Luis Miranda, former White House Director of Hispanic Media; Managing Director, MDC Strategies

Marcelino Miyares, President, MM Communications Inc.

Frank Mora, Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Center, Florida International
University

Moisés Naím, Distinguished Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Michael Parmly, former Chief of the U.S. Interests Section, Havana

Ralph Patino, Civil Trial Attorney; Futuro Fund Board Member

Ted Piccone, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution

Thomas Pickering, former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

Bill Reinsch, President, National Foreign Trade Council

Cecile Richards

Bill Richardson, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; former Governor
of New Mexico

Bill Ritter, former Governor of Colorado

David Rockefeller, Honorary Chairman, Americas Society/Council of the Americas

Hillary Rosen, Managing Director, SKDKnickerbocker Communications

Christopher Sabatini, former Editor-in-Chief, Americas Quarterly; Adjunct Professor,
Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs

Carlos Saladrigas, Chairman of Regis HR Group and Concordia Behavioral Health;
Chairman of the Cuba Study Group; member of the board of Duke Energy Corporation and Advance Auto Parts, Inc.

Ken Salazar, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior; former U.S. Senator; former Colorado
Attorney General

Frank Sanchez, former U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce

George P. Shultz, Fellow, Hoover Institution; former U.S. Secretary of State, Treasury and
Labor; former Director, Office of Budget & Management; former CEO, Bechtel

Susan Segal, President and CEO, Americas Society/Council of the Americas

Hilda L. Solis, former U.S. Secretary of Labor; former Congresswoman

Enrique Sosa, former President, Dow Chemical North America

Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret); Dean, The Fletcher School, Tufts University;
Supreme Allied Commander, NATO (2009-2013); Commander, U.S. Southern Command
(2006-2009)

Sarah Stephens, Executive Director, Center for Democracy in the Americas

Alan Stoga, President, Zemi Communications, LLC; Vice Chairman, Americas Society/Council of the Americas

Ted Strickland, former Governor of Ohio

Neera Tanden, President, Center for American Progress

Strobe Talbott, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State

Ted Trimpa, Principal and CEO, Trimpa Group

Raul Valdes-Fauli, Partner, Fox Rothchild; former Mayor, City of Coral Gables, Florida

Arturo Valenzuela, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere
Affairs; Professor of Government and International Affairs, Georgetown University

Melanne Verveer, former U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues

Bill Vidal, former Mayor of Denver, Colorado

Alexander Watson, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs

James Williams, Director of Public Policy, Trimpa Group; Board Member, Project on
Middle East Democracy

Timothy Wirth, former U.S. Senator; Vice-Chair, The UN Foundation

The above signatories have signed this letter in their personal capacities; they do not reflect the views of their company, organization or university, current or past.

14 thoughts on “Prominent USA Personalities Urge Obama to Deepen Relationship with Cuba

  • January 19, 2015 at 11:45 pm
    Permalink

    The three words “lift the embargo” are conspicuously absent from this letter. Very interesting.

    Reply
    • January 20, 2015 at 11:08 am
      Permalink

      Everybody knows that it’s far too early to even talk about repealing the embargo / Helms-Burton… baby steps, Moses… baby steps. The current ongoing dialogue and the obvious support for Obama’s efforts are definitely the thin edge of the wedge.

      Reply
      • January 20, 2015 at 1:14 pm
        Permalink

        I think it is too early to open an embassy as well but I am now forced to assume that the President has more information than I do and therefore has a rational reason to extend an olive branch to this dictatorship. The downward slide of the Cuban economy in combination with the ticking biological clock that stares the Castros in the face gives me hope that the regime will be forced to accept compromises that hasten the possibility for a more democratic future in Cuba.

        Reply
        • February 13, 2015 at 4:54 pm
          Permalink

          Funny,
          there was a now-fired right wing talk show host in Boston a few years ago who claimed that George Bush had information that he ( the radio guy) did not or could not have that justified the Iraq invasion . That’s all the evidence he needed or wanted also. ;;
          To believe that the president or any authority figure with the vested interests that they have would tell you the truth when it would make them out to be liars as regards policies they follow is strikingly and egregiously naïve.
          And …again WTF do you know about democracy ?
          Mr. Religion
          Mr. Oligarchy
          Mr. Capitalism
          This is all rhetorical so don’t bother responding

          Reply
          • February 13, 2015 at 10:59 pm
            Permalink

            You forgot Mr. Male Head-of-Household.

  • January 20, 2015 at 10:29 am
    Permalink

    I am puzzled by the presence of this sentence in the letter:

    “…our fifty-four-year-old approach intended to promote human rights and democracy in Cuba has failed.”

    Surely, the failure to promote human rights and democracy in Cuba has been entirely the fault of the Castro regime. They alone bear full responsibility for the dictatorship they established and ran for 56 years.

    Reply
    • January 20, 2015 at 11:03 am
      Permalink

      Tea Party Griffin has no reason to be puzzled. The sentence says “our approach” and it admits the failure. The personalities (US citizens) listed, who one would think have a lot more information on the subject than know-it-all Griffin in Canada, are the most wide-ranging consensus on an issue I’ve seen in quite a while. Read the names again and see if you agree.

      Reply
      • January 20, 2015 at 11:40 am
        Permalink

        If you believe that the US approach to promoting democracy and human rights in Cuba has been a failure, then by that same argument, you admit there is no democracy or human rights in Cuba.

        Obama has advanced the argument that his new relationship with Cuba will succeed in promoting human rights and democracy in Cuba. I have my doubts, but I sincerely hope he is correct.

        Do you also hope Obama is correct, that by his new approach to US-Cuba relations, that Cuba will soon become a democracy where the rights and freedoms of the Cuban people are finally respected by a democratically elected Cuban government?

        Reply
    • February 13, 2015 at 4:49 pm
      Permalink

      Griffin,
      We’ve been through this on numerous occasions.
      The U.S. has never been about working TOWARDS a democratic world and, to the contrary, have sought to repress democratic societies, have overturned democratic elections to install dictators , have taught torture to suppress populations in various countries around the world.
      Again, you need only read one book to understand this and again you need only read the introduction to the book to see the truth of what I say.
      The book is “Killing Hope ” and you can read the intro and many chapters free at the “Killing Hope” website .
      Please lets not have to go through this again.
      Please read the evidence .
      Tell me where I’m wrong or tell me where William Blum, the author of the book is wrong or do the right thing and retract your fantastic statement. .

      Reply
  • January 20, 2015 at 12:11 pm
    Permalink

    Tea Party Griffin, The article isn’t about what I or you think, its about 78 public figures, from conservative Republicans to liberal Democrats, including corporate magnates, who know much more than you on the subject. If you really hope they are correct then say so. If not, continue on with your fanatical Marco Rubio love affair.

    Reply
    • January 20, 2015 at 12:34 pm
      Permalink

      The article is about what the article is about. My comments are about what I think about the article. That’s the way comments on a blog work.

      I assume your comments are about what you think about the article, although in practice you tend to limit yourself to snarky comments directed at other commenters.

      Reply
  • January 20, 2015 at 12:33 pm
    Permalink

    When the signatories call for the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture and the International Red Cross to be allowed to visit the island, does that include Guantanamo Bay? When will the US apply ‘the rule of law’ to the only part of the island over which it has direct jurisdiction?

    Reply
  • January 20, 2015 at 4:04 pm
    Permalink

    When are you anti lifting the embargo people going to give up; it’s over! I am a registered Republican and I can tell you if the Republicans fight this they are making a big mistake. The only logical reason they would vote against lifting this ludicrous embargo is for politics — then need to read some of the polls, the majority of the people want it lifted. I have become totally dischanted with both political parties and I am going to l shift to being an Independent.

    It is interesting how you find all the reasons that we should keep an embargo on Cuba for doing the same things that are done in China, Vietnam and many other countries that we don’t have an embargo on.

    I can only assume that all of you who have a problem lifting the embargo have personal reasons for punishing the Cuban people.

    Reply
  • January 20, 2015 at 5:15 pm
    Permalink

    And the historical revisionism continues.
    To wit: “………..our 54 year old approach intended to promote human rights and democracy in Cuba has failed. ”
    This from the letter sent to Obama by what should be knowledgeable people as regards historical accuracy.
    Listen a-holes ..,the explicit purpose of the embargo was NOT intended to promote human rights and democracy.
    That policy was laid out by Under Secretary of State Lester Mallory who (paraphrased) said that it would be necessary to starve the entire island in order to get them to overthrow their revolution.
    The GOUSA in following a century old foreign policy mandate to prevent anti-free-enterprise systems to evolve and to ensure the position of privilege for the wealthy.
    Installing democratic forms and fighting for human rights is something extremely rare in that history and the overwhelming majority of the more than 70 U.S. interventions in the last century have been to fight AGAINST human rights movements and democratic societies.
    As always my source for anyone who would like to check my statistics and facts is “Killing Hope ” and “Rogue State: A Guide To The Worlds Only Superpower ” both in book form and at the eponymous websites.
    Please show me where I’m wrong in anything I’ve posted here.

    Reply

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