Hillary Clinton in Miami: Lift the embargo against Cuba
BY MICHAEL VASQUEZ AND JENNY LUNA
Saying "America's approach to Cuba is at a crossroads," Democratic
presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton called for an end to the
53-year-old Cuban trade embargo in Miami on Friday.
The former secretary of state's chosen location of Florida International
University was significant for two reasons: Clinton delivered the
message in the heart of the Cuban exile community, which is divided over
the issue, and did it at a college campus, where the crowd tilted
younger and, according to polls, more likely to support lifting the
Hillary Clinton delivers a Cuba policy speech at Florida International
University Friday, July 31, 2015. PETER ANDREW BOSCH MIAMI HERALD STAFF
Her position would have elicited public outcry in the Miami of a
not-so-distant past. But times have changed: Protests against Clinton
were contained to a handful of people, many of them with the local
Republican Party, outside the auditorium.
In her remarks, Clinton said her campaign is about bringing prosperity
to the U.S. — but also to the citizens of Cuba, and "for the young
entrepreneur in Little Havana, who dreams of expanding to old Havana."
Though only Congress can lift the embargo, Clinton promised, if elected,
to act on Cuba even if Congress doesn't, by using her executive
authority to loosen travel and other economic restrictions, including on
The invitation-only crowd of more than 200 greeted Clinton with a
standing ovation, and gave her another as she wrapped up her roughly
Clinton's call for Congress to end the embargo comes about a month after
President Barack Obama did the same. But even with the current warming
of relations between Washington and Havana, human-rights violations
continue on the communist island.
Republicans were quick to attack Clinton's position as further enabling
the Castro regime — even before the speech began. Minutes before the
start, former Florida governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush took
to Twitter: "It's insulting to many Miami residents for Hillary to come
here to endorse a retreat in Cuba's struggle for democracy."
Cuban-American presidential candidate Marco Rubio tweeted a photo of
Clinton accepting a red button from Vladimir Putin — only Putin had
Cuban leader Raúl Castro's face PhotoShopped on it instead. "After
Clinton's failed 'reset' with Putin, now she wants to do a 'reset' with
Castro," Rubio posted. "She is making another mistake."
In her speech, Clinton said "engagement is not a silver bullet, but
again and again we see that it is more likely to hasten change, not hold
She also noted that a member of the Ladies in White, a Cuban dissident
group, was in attendance at her event.
Clinton said her feelings on the embargo have evolved since the 1990s,
when former President Bill Clinton signed the Helms-Burton Act, which
further strengthened the Cuban embargo.
She told the FIU crowd that her former support for the embargo was
influenced by the Cuban government's shooting down of two Brothers to
the Rescue aircraft over the Florida Straits in 1996. Cuba's act of
aggression, which killed four, led to Congress passing the Helms-Burton Act.
Regarding her new anti-embargo stance, Clinton said "I did not come to
this position lightly; I well remember what happened to previous
attempts at engagement in the 1990s."
But today, Clinton said the embargo has become "an albatross around our
necks" when it comes to U.S.-Cuba policy. And it wasn't working, she said.
"The Castros were able to blame all of the island's woes on the U.S.
embargo… and delaying their day of reckoning with the Cuban people," she
Clinton said the Obama administration's loosening of travel restrictions
helped convince her it is time for a change in course.
"I remember seeing a CNN report that summer about a Cuban father living
and working in the United States who hadn't seen his baby boy," she
said. "Our reforms made it possible for that father and son to finally
"It felt like the start of something important," she said.
The Democratic-leaning crowd, many of them Cuban-Americans, responded
Susy Ribero-Ayala, a criminal defense attorney in Coral Gables, hasn't
been to Cuba since her great uncle — the last democratically elected
president of the country — left the island.
Ribero-Ayala said she went from from "supporter" of Clinton to "major
supporter" after her speech, touting her mention of the need for
human-rights action in Cuba and the ease for American travel to the island.
"It is going to move away from the regime, and they're going to have no
choice but to adapt to the changes," Ribero-Ayala said.
On a patch of grass across from the auditorium, about 40 protesters came
to show just how much they disagree with Clinton's call to lift the
embargo. Students from FIU College Republicans and the Cuban Democratic
Directorate stood outside the auditorium waving flags.
Rey Anthony, a political science and Cuban studies major at FIU called
Clinton's visit "a slap in the face."
"To us it's an insult that Hillary Clinton has come to the heart of our
community at an institution that has opened its doors to so many exiles
to ask us to remove sanctions," Anthony said.
The third-generation Cuban American wants to one day be a professor,
just like the man who taught his Florida Politics course at FIU last
semester: Marco Rubio.
Source: Hillary Clinton in Miami: Lift the embargo against Cuba | Miami