The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


Obama Delivers Latin America Policy Address Before Cuban Group

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) speaks during Cuban Independence Day celebrations during a meeting with the Cuban American national foundation in Miami, May 23, 2008. (Reuters)

By Shailagh Murray
MIAMI -- Sen. Barack Obama outlined a comprehensive Latin America policy aimed at bolstering diplomacy, security and investment in the region, asserting before a Cuban American audience here, "The situation has changed in the Americas, but we've failed to change with it."

Obama's speech to the Cuban American National Foundation came four days after Sen. John McCain addressed the Miami Cuban community and advocated a continued hard-line approach to the Havana regime, by enforcing the existing trade embargo and travel restrictions. Obama devoted a large portion of his speech to Cuba and called for a starkly different approach, reiterating his pledge to lift travel and money transfer restrictions and to negotiate directly with the Cuban government.

McCain's campaign responded to Obama's speech hours before he delivered it, accusing him of advocating an "unconditional summit" with Raul Castro's Communist government. The heated exchange underscored the battle line that Cuba has become between the two likely nominees in a swing state that could decide the election.

Obama brushed off the McCain broadside. "Now I know what the easy thing is to do for American politicians. Every four years, they come down to Miami, they talk tough, they go back to Washington, and nothing changes in Cuba," he told the crowd. "That's what John McCain did the other day. He joined the parade of politicians who make the same empty promises year after year, decade after decade."

"Let me be clear," he continued. "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. That's never what I've said, and John McCain knows it. After eight years of the disastrous policies of George Bush, it is time to pursue direct diplomacy, with friend and foe alike, without preconditions."

Obama asserted, "I will never, ever, compromise the cause of liberty." But unlike McCain, he added, "I would never, ever, rule out a course of action that could advance the cause of liberty."

He said he would maintain the embargo as leverage to compel the Cuban government to take "significant steps towards democracy," beginning with the freeing of political prisoners. "That's the way to bring about real change in Cuba -- through strong, smart and principled diplomacy," Obama said.

After the speech, the McCain campaign fired off a recap of previous statements where Obama criticized the embargo, casting him as a flip-flopper.

"By changing his position in front of Cuban Americans to support the embargo that he used to oppose, Barack Obama is engaging in the same political expediency that he railed against in his speech," said spokesman Tucker Bounds. "This same tired type of political flexibility shows Barack Obama's weak leadership on an important issue."

Obama also proposed a new regional energy initiative that would allow U.S. industrial emitters of carbon to offset a portion of their costs from a new cap and trade system by investing in low carbon energy projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. He called for investments in "clean coal" technology and other alternative sources, like wind and solar, and said he would establish an "Energy Corps" to dispatch clean energy experts to the region.

He said he would increase resources to battle crime and drug trafficking in Latin America, and advocated more development assistance and Peace Corps volunteers. Obama said he would resist trade deals that give short shrift to workers and described the "backbreaking inequality" that persisted, despite the vast resources of many Latin American countries. He would erase Cold War-era distinctions between governments, he added, judging them based on how they treated their people.

"The person living in fear of violence doesn't care if they're threatened by a right-wing paramilitary or a left-wing terrorist; they don't care if they're being threatened by a drug cartel or a corrupt police force. They just care that they're being threatened, and that their families can't live and work in peace. That is why there will never be true security unless we focus our efforts on targeting every source of fear in the Americas," Obama said.

"There's an overarching theme here, which is re-engagement," said Robert Gelbard, a former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia, who advised Obama on the speech. "The United States has been AWOL ... for these last eight years."

Posted at 2:54 PM ET on May 23, 2008
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I agree Senator McCain's view of the Americas is out of touch, but so is telling CANF, sons of forces ousted from Cuba for crimes against humanity, that theirs is a legacy of conviction, commitment to freedom, and hard-earned prosperity.
Obama's message of freedom must first stand the constitutional test in Miami.
He spoke of freedom from fear, leaving out acts of terrorism perpetrated with absolute impunity against the people of Cuba; financed by CANF (by convicted terrorist Posada Carriles's own account to the New York Times), costing more than 3,000 lives, and countless suffering.
He spoke of dissidents treated unfairly, yet this very week Cuba has put forth irrefutable evidence of convicted terrorists from South Florida sending those "dissidents" hefty contributions through the US Interest Section in Havana. That was a missed golden opportunity to attack the duality of Bush's bogus war on terror.
He said injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Five Cuban political prisoners languish in US federal prisons for infiltrating organizations in Miami such as CANF, in order to avert acts of terrorism. They were unfairly tried in Miami and sentenced from 15 years to 2 consecutive life terms. This Administration continues to deprive them of basic human rights, while politicizing their case and squandering resources, in order to appease those applauding you in Miami.
He vowed to be a relentless advocate for democracy, but like Bush and McCain failed to define it, preferring instead to speak to fascists about Roosevelt's speech on the Nazis.
He called Hugo Chavez a demagogue. Yet, while Exxon makes record profits, Chavez sells natural gas to the poorest in our country at modest prices. Maybe you shouldn't spend too much time with extremists in Miami.
He spoke of freedom from fear in the America of Marti. Yet it was US meddlesome policies and expansionism that Marti taught us to fear the most.
While Obama is forced to raise millions of dollars to run for public office, Cubans can run for public office for free. While you promise to make health insurance available to all, Cubans enjoy one of the best healthcare systems on the planet, for free. While you promise to make college loans available, Cubans enjoy free education.
When I look at the coffee mug with Obama's photo on my desk at at work next week, I'll blush.

Chronology of terror

Posted by: Babs | May 26, 2008 8:06 AM

Why will nobody call McCain out for his erroneous assertions about Cuba?

In a speech largely about Cuba, McCain said Tuesday in Miami: "So it's dangerous; it's dangerous to American national security if you sit down and give respect and prestige to leaders of countries that are bent on your destruction or the destruction of other countries. I won't do it, my friends."

Fact: Cuba does not have the stated purpose of destroying the US--or any other country.

Cuba stopped supporting revolutionary insurrection abroad in the early 1990s when it lost Soviet aid and had to focus on providing basic services like food and education.

In 1998, US intelligence reported that Cuba did not represent a threat to US national security.

The Council on Foreign Relations has a primer on the subject:

It is perfectly legitimate for McCain to have the view that meeting with Raul Castro would be unproductive or confer unwarranted prestige on the Cuban regime. That is the type of policy difference we can have an election on.

But it is baseless fear-mongering to imply that Cuba wishes to destroy the US or poses a credible threat.

Simply pointing out that McCain's purported fear of Cuba is not supported by long-standing intelligence reports or any actions by the Cuban government would show him to be ill-informed, irresponsible, and lacking shrewd judgment.

Why dont journalists provide this background to McCain's statements on Cuba? Why doesnt the Obama campaign point out McCain's misconception about Cuba?

Then John McCain could explain why he thinks Cuba represents a menace to US national security.

Posted by: Max F. | May 26, 2008 2:11 AM

So Mr. Obama's statement is that he would maintain the status quo, according to your article. "He said he would maintain the embargo as leverage to compel the Cuban government to take "significant steps towards democracy," beginning with the freeing of political prisoners. "That's the way to bring about real change in Cuba " So the only thing different he is proposing is to go talk to Raul Castro and then use the 50 year old failed embargo "to compel the Cuban government " to change. Wouldn't you like to know what he plans to say? I would. If he's got some new ideas, not just platitudes and criticisms let's hear them. Some concrete ideas about " strong, smart and principled diplomacy," would go a long way toward easing my fear that he is a great orator and salesman but lacks the experience and perspective to lead our country.

Posted by: Art | May 25, 2008 12:13 PM

Come what may, my lot is with the Democrats. I am too liberal to be with JMC. The birds of my feather are Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Caroline Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, John Edwards, Barack Obama, Mr. Biden, et al...Their values are pretty close to my values. Their causes are pretty close to my causes. The veterans issue and MC's stand exposed him. Ordinary Americans can have nothing to do with this bunch of unrepentant oligarchs.

Viva the Democratic Party!

Posted by: mdsubramonia | May 24, 2008 11:47 PM

I am a hispanic and I think Obama is so so so out of touch with reality in Latin America it would be best if he stays out of it! Thanks Obama but, no thanks.

Posted by: Rafael VA | May 24, 2008 4:00 PM

I just watched the speech on C-Span. It was amazingly good. Here's the link:

Posted by: C. Neiman | May 24, 2008 1:43 AM

Gator-Ron; Agreed! :-)

Juan McAmnesty is ALSO setting us up for a Socialist takeover! By un-checked Inasarios!

Check out his stance on the topic in his "Issues" section! ;~)

Posted by: SAINT---The | May 24, 2008 12:46 AM

For nearly fifty years we have had the same policy towards Cuba and it has netted us nothing. To try the same thing for an additional four years is the wrong policy. John McCain's foreign policy makes him look like a mouse in a maze where GWB has created the maze and he's trapped in it. I do not believe he is as stupid as he seems.

Where did he rank in his class at Annapolis?

Posted by: Gator-ron | May 23, 2008 11:44 PM

LOL! :-D

Leave it to the World Labor Party Rep. to want to invest US $$$$ in Bolivia and Cuba.

Heyyyyy, Obasama! Don't forget your Socialist Pals in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Ecuador, Chile, and to a lessor extent, Argentina!

It would take an absolute MORON to invest in Countries actively STEALING Foreign Investments!

As far as Cuba, THAT is where MY FATHER Lost(Oh, we know were it was, it just got a new "Owner") His Investment Capital!

Our NEXT President, needs to come down on thieving Socialists like Ugly on Michelle! ;~)

Posted by: SAINT---The | May 23, 2008 11:00 PM

Good - let Obama be captured by the Castro regime.

Posted by: Frederick | May 23, 2008 9:03 PM

Manolete, are you kidding me? What is the connection between Barack Obama and the Black Radical Congress, other than the fact that Barack is of half African descent? Or maybe that's enough for you, in which case you might want to post a link to the Ku Klux Klan and as a warning to anyone who might vote for McCain. Since he happens to be White, that makes him a Trojan horse too, by your logic. Oh wait, Barack is half White too, so he might be both a member of the Black Radical Congress and the Ku Klux Klan, wow.

And what does any of this have to do with Cuba?

Obama is right, 50 years of not talking hasn't gotten us anywhere. It's time to talk to those we disagree with.

Posted by: areyoukiddingme | May 23, 2008 8:58 PM

Barack Hussein Obama is the Trojan horse.....he seems safe, harmless and is offered as a peace offering, BUT he has no substance and is hollow and just like a Trojan Horse it hides and brings within him supremacist and terrorist groups waiting for the night to come before they get out of the Trojan Horse to slaughter the people and sacked the town.

Take a look at what is inside the Obama Trojan Horse:

Read an example of some of their goals:

III. We will fight to advance beyond capitalism, which has demonstrated its structural incapacity to address basic human needs worldwide and, in particular, the needs of Black people. 

Guided by our belief that people should come before profits, we will fight to maximize economic democracy and economic justice: 

a. We seek full employment at livable wages, public control of private sector financial operations, worker control of production decisions, and a guaranteed annual income for the needy; 

b. We will fight to end racial discrimination by capitalist enterprises, especially banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions; 

c. We seek a society in which working people enjoy safe working conditions and flexible hours to accommodate family responsibilities, leisure and vacations; 

d. We seek laws mandating public ownership of utilities, and mandating federal and local budgetary emphases on programs for the general welfare � health care, education, public transportation, recreation and infrastructure; 

e. We will struggle for laws that regulate private sector business practices, especially regarding prices, fees, plant shutdowns and job relocations � where shutdowns are permitted, adequate compensation to workers shall be required; 

f. We support the historical mission of trade unions to represent workers' interests and to negotiate on their behalf; 

g. We seek a fair, equitable, highly progressive tax system that places the heaviest taxes on the wealthiest sector, and we seek expansion of the earned income tax credit.
XII. We will fight for reparations. 

Reparations is a well-established principle of international law that should be applied in the U.S. Historically, the U.S. has been both the recipient and disburser of reparations. As the descendants of enslaved Africans, we have the legal and moral right to receive just compensation for the oppression, systematic brutality and economic exploitation Black people have suffered historically and continue to experience today. Thus, we seek reparations from the U.S. for 

a. its illegal assault on African peoples during the slave trade; 

b. its exploitation of Black labor during slavery, and 

c. its systematic and totalitarian physical, economic and cultural violence against people of African descent over the last four centuries. 

Wow! This is what's inside the Trojan Horse Barack.

Posted by: Manolete | May 23, 2008 7:24 PM

Robert(NYC) whines while in safe Havens (U.S.A). Stop mongering and do something! you should be a good example for your people!. Please stop those stupid old divisive tricks!. If the old policies didnt work for the Cuban people time to try new policies!. Robert stop being an obstacle instead be a gate way of freedom to free the rest of the Cubans living in Cuba!

Posted by: Pedeen | May 23, 2008 6:42 PM

This about sums it up for the Cuban American position:
Best regards again,
Robert (NYC)

Posted by: Robert | May 23, 2008 5:48 PM

If he is about liberty and freedom, Barack should be doing his homework before putting his foot firmly in his mouth in South Florida. If it's about freedom and liberty in Cuba, are Barack and his advisors aware of some of the educational techniques used there? How would Michelle & Barack feel about this "Cuban education" for their own two young daughters?:
Does anyone still wonder about the Cuban American position?
My best regards to all,
Robert (NYC)

Posted by: Robert | May 23, 2008 5:44 PM

I totally agree with Barak to have a direct talk with Cuba. Nothing has changed in Cuba with our existing idiotic policy. Why would we wait till both Castro die hoping for a change that we all know that it will never come. Castro is out of the picture, and his ill brother will follow soon, but another young stud will take over and carry on the old policy " Don't you think that Cuba has many young men line up to take over the leadership". Cuban American needs to wake up and smell the CIGAR. They have to look for the big picture here and accept the fact that dialogue is the way to solve any problem. It is 2008 for God sake, how many more years do we have to wait hoping for a change without doing any action. Psssssssssss, do something

Posted by: Karshe | May 23, 2008 5:21 PM

Who cares about the stupid band? Isn't it more important for us to be discussing our policy toward Cuba?

Posted by: Character Counts | May 23, 2008 4:29 PM

I live in Portland and I attended the Obama rally and I can tell you that throngs of people weren't lined up for 5 city blocks in a standing-room-only situation to see an obscure alternative rock band. So there's your mainstream media newsflash.

As for Cuba, all I can say is that Obama continues to display the leadership, balance, and tenacity we need in a President for these United States. McCain policies and nothing more than a path to 4 more years of failed Bush policies. Simple as that.

Posted by: Jeff, Portland Oregon | May 23, 2008 4:25 PM

It seems that our policy toward Cuba, which has been largely dictated by the Miami based Cuban exile community, has been ineffective to say the least. Perhaps a new approach to our relationship with Cuba is called for. I am pleased to see that Obama is thinking outside of the box.

Posted by: Character Counts | May 23, 2008 4:25 PM


It's John SIDNEY McCain, the III, to you.

Posted by: JakeD | May 23, 2008 4:13 PM

I live here. Trust me if they were trying to draw Cubans it sure as heck wouldn't be the Decemberists.

Back to the story. Obama is right. It's time for an open dialogue. An open dialogue doesn't mean capitulation. (Something that the King George and his flunkies have never unnderstood)

So we;ve gone for almost 50 years with an embargo on Cuba. How's that work out for ya so far? What was Einstein's definition of insanity? "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over agin expecting different results"?

Well that about sums up our past policies to Cuba. Insane.

Posted by: Sparky | May 23, 2008 4:10 PM

McCain has the foreign policy open mindedness, this proves it..

Posted by: Raleigh | May 23, 2008 4:04 PM

"Barack HUSSEIN Obama", the Right Wing Morons are already playing that card. If you won't vote for someone because of their middle name you should have to forfeit your right to vote. Besides, it has a better ring than John "BUSH" McCain.

Posted by: Henry | May 23, 2008 4:01 PM

So, we can agree that a couple thousand people came to see the band more than Barack HUSSEIN Obama, right? Good -- can we get back to the topic of Cuba now?

Posted by: JakeD | May 23, 2008 3:48 PM

Hey Greenfun, I know its fun to just be a ditto-head to the right-wing pundits rather than actually doing the research yourself, so I'll let you in on a little secret: The Decemberists aren't that popular.

The highest they've ever hit on the billboard charts was #35, the week their last album came out. They are a hometown band who play MANY gigs in Portland year-round. This band usually fills up concert venues of about 1-2,000. We're not talking about KISS here. Not to forget that I'm sure many of their fans fit the Obama supporter demographic anyways, including myself.

That's ok though, keep playing off people's ignorance and spouting off your O'Reilly talking points like you're some sort of prophetic investigative journalist.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 23, 2008 3:46 PM

From CNN to the New York Times, the media hyped Barack Obama's Portland, Oregon rally on Sunday, some comparing him to a rock star.

Unmentioned in national reporting was the fact that Obama was preceded by a rare, 45-minute free concert by actual rock stars The Decemberists. The Portland-based band has drawn rave reviews from Rolling Stone magazine, which gave their 2005 album Picaresque four and a half stars (out of five), and another four and a half stars for 2007's The Crane Wife.

Posted by: greenfun | May 23, 2008 3:40 PM

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