The Guardian reports a promising new development in Barack Obama’s policy toward Cuba:
Barack Obama today urged a thaw in the US embargo on the island nation and released an ambitious plan for Latin America. Obama threw a confident jab at Republican rival John McCain, who visited south Florida last week to accuse the likely Democratic presidential nominee of being too cosy with the Cuban government.
“Now let me be clear: John McCain’s been going around the country talking about how much I want to meet with Raul Castro, as if I’m looking for a social gathering,” Obama told members of the Cuban-American national foundation in Miami.
“That’s never what I’ve said, and John McCain knows it.”
What Obama has suggested is engagement with Castro…
Obama vowed today to allow Cuban-Americans unlimited rights to travel and send money to the island as president, loosening Bush administration restrictions that are increasingly unpopular.
While Cubans in the US have largely voted Republican in the past, a Florida International University poll taken last year found that 65% support Obama’s call for dialogue with Castro, 64% support allowing money transfers and 55% support allowing travel.
“It’s time for more than tough talk that never yields results. It’s time for a new strategy,” Obama said today…
Obama proposed complete debt relief for poor Latin American nations and opening a dialogue with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez
This is the realistic, pragmatic foreign policy that many Americans have hoped for over the past seven years. What is especially exciting to me is that Obama, so far at least, is attempting to apply this pragmatism in a principled way across the board in U.S. foreign relations. He’s said similar things about Iran. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been as pragmatic (at least publicly) about the Israeli-Arab conflict because he perceives a lot more to lose from being painted as an Arab apologist by the Israel lobby.
Nevertheless, this development in Obama’s Cuba policy augurs well for what we can expect from an Obama Middle East policy. With this kind of realism and half-way willing Israeli and Palestinian partners, I’m very confident a final status agreement could be achieved. Not to mention the possibility of a Syria-Israel agreement with Obama Administration encouragement.
This Obama announcement indicates his increasing confidence in laying out a bold foreign policy agenda that does not cower in fear of McCain’s carping attacks on it. We’ll have to wait to see whether Obama can stick to it in the face of the neocon assault that one can expect.