Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Obama's Promises on Cuban American Travel vs. Sen. Nelson's Version

It is important we understand that when we have that full and fair and open debate in the sunshine, we remember what Candidate Obama said during the campaign. He said what he wanted to do was go back to the status quo ante on travel to Cuba by family members every year instead of once every 3 years and to have more remittances every quarter than was cut back a few years ago by the previous administration. That seems to be common sense and family value oriented. That is what the candidate who became our next President articulated.

--Sen. Bill Nelson (D, FL) during debate of Omnibus Appropriations Bill 3/10/09

Only that's not what candidate Barack Obama said. He promised many times in debates and speeches and in writing during the campaign, and the Democratic platform pledged, "unlimited travel and remittances" for Cuban Americans. Twice he used the less definitive term "loosening",twice specified a time frame of "immediate" and twice used "unrestricted" but never just a roll back to Clinton's formula of "annual".


Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: Renewing U.S. Leadership in the Americas at program organized by Cuban American National Foundation Miami, FL | May 23, 2008

It's time for more than tough talk that never yields results. It's time for a new strategy. There are no better ambassadors for freedom than Cuban Americans. That's why I will immediately allow unlimited family travel and remittances to the island. It's time to let Cuban Americans see their mothers and fathers, their sisters and brothers. It's time to let Cuban American money make their families less dependent upon the Castro regime.


Democratic Platform, page 37

We must turn the page on the arrogance in Washington and the anti-Americanism across the region that stands in the way of progress. We must work with close partners like Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia on issues like ending the drug trade, fighting poverty and inequality, and immigration. We must work with the Caribbean community to help restore stability and the rule of law to Haiti, to improve the lives of its people, and to strengthen its democracy. And we must build ties to the people of Cuba and help advance their liberty by allowing unlimited family visits and remittances to the island, while presenting the Cuban regime with a clear choice: if it takes significant steps toward democracy, beginning with the unconditional release of all political prisoners, we will be prepared to take steps to begin normalizing relations.


From Obama web site

Promote Democracy in Cuba and Throughout the Hemisphere: Barack Obama will support democracy that is strong and sustainable in the day to day lives of the people of the Americas. In the case of Cuba, he will empower our best ambassadors of freedom by allowing unlimited Cuban-American family travel and remittances to the island.


McCain, Obama trade fire over Cuba
Posted on Sat, Feb. 23, 2008 Kansas City Star

Obama didn't retreat Friday, saying in an e-mail that he'd call for an "immediate change in policy to allow for unlimited family travel and remittances to the island."


Austin Debate

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.


Answers to CANF questionnaire:

I believe U.S. policy has failed. That’s why I have called for a new policy that would permit unlimited family travel and cash remittances, but maintain the embargo as an inducement for democratic change on the Island...

As President, I will grant Cuban Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send remittances to the island.


Brown and Black Forum, Des Moines, Iowa 12/01/07

there are two things we can do right now to prepare for that. And that is loosen travel restrictions for family members, Cuban Americans who want to visit and open up remittances


Op Ed in Miami Herald Posted on Tue, Aug. 21, 2007

Cuban-American connections to family in Cuba are not only a basic right in humanitarian terms, but also our best tool for helping to foster the beginnings of grass-roots democracy on the island. Accordingly, I will grant Cuban Americans unrestricted rights to visit family and send remittances to the island.


This is the only reference I have found to Obama on the other categories of non-tourist travel. He was one of seventeen Senators signing March 8, 2006 letter to Secretary of Treasury Snow

We are disturbed that OFAC appears to be defining what is and is not a religious organization -- in itself a precarious role for a U.S. Government agency -- and that its operating definition appears to be prejudiced against recognized, mainstream national religious institutions....

We understand the complicated political reality that exists between the United States and Cuban governments. However, we believe it is inappropriate and unacceptable for politics and government to serve as a hurdle and now as a barrier to faith-based connections between individuals.