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
“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.
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,
Tom Downey, former U.S. Congressman
Anita Dunn, Managing Director, SKDKnickerbocker Communications
Andres Fanjul, Fanjul Group
Alfonso Fanjul, Fanjul Group
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
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
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
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
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.