Saturday, February 21, 2009

Whoa, Surprising!

Well, smack me upside the head with a fresh halibut and call me Hanna. A Republican has gone on record for taking a few steps towards normalizing relations with Cuba.

Restrictive U.S. policies toward Cuba are ineffective, have failed to achieve their stated purpose of promoting democracy and should be reevaluated to take advantage of recent political changes on the island, according to the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The views of Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) are appended to a report by minority committee staffers that calls for lifting Bush administration restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba, reinstituting formal bilateral cooperation on drug interdiction and migration, and allowing Cuba to buy U.S. agricultural products on credit. Scheduled for release Monday, the report stops short of proposing that the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba be lifted.

I anticipate great amounts of fevered fanning and pearl clutching from some segments of the Grand Ol' Party, but I also think the pragmatists still hanging around in those parts won't be too terribly upset, especially by the part that recommends loosening of the agricultural trade restrictions. And pragmatists in both parties have to be aware that there are some significant shifts on the horizon when it comes to leadership in Cuba as well as shifts in Florida where some of the die hard anti-Fidel forces are also, well, dying out. Now is a terrific time for Congress to review some of these regulations born of unseemly fears over a 50-year-old revolution in a tiny island 90 miles away.

It appears that the first step will have to be taken by Congress, however. Right now, President Obama apparently has his hands full with the economy and Afghanistan. His Secretary of State is doing good things, but she is doing them in Asia, and perhaps for good reason. That region and our economy are, unfortunately, inextricably linked because of the policies of the last eight years.

...Cuba, and Latin America in general, has so far received little attention from the Obama administration amid the turmoil of the economic crisis at home and the Afghan war and other pressing issues abroad. No director for the region has been named within the National Security Council staff, and regional officials at the State Department have remained in place.

At some point, the current administration is going to have to pay attention to our neighbors to the south. This is as good as any way to begin the process, but I think it will take Congress to push them in that direction. And that means, that it will take us to push Congress in that direction.

It's the right thing to do.

And Senator Lugar, thank you.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lugar really is close to being the Last Sane Republican Standing, which is not exactly a nomination for sainthood but still an improvement over the majority of his colleages.

although if I were a Latin American country, I might be very relieved to be the recipient of benign neglect from the Great White Father to the north. Such attentions as they have gotten in the past have very seldom worked to the benefit of Da Pipple.

4:18 PM  
Blogger the bewilderness said...

I long for the days when Lugar was one of the farthest right on the spectrum of Republican politicians.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a surprising development. I wasn't expecting relations with Cuba to be brought up quickly in this Congressional session, much less normalizing the relations with Cuba.

Hopefully Congress will actually choose to open up a discussion about this. Now that they have passed the stimulus package, they should be able to move on to issues like this.

I saw that the Friends of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is still asking people to give their opinion on the most important thing for Congress to do next. Then they are going to focus their efforts on getting Congress to accomplish what we actually want them to do.

What do the other readers think Congress should do? Should they work to normalize the relations with Cuba? Should they try to do more with other countries in the Western hemisphere? Or should they focus their efforts on completely different areas? Make sure to add your opinion so Congress can know what we want them to do next -

6:44 PM  

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