February 19th, 2008
12:20 PM ET
15 years ago

White House hopefuls on Castro's resignation

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/19/art.castromtg0219.ap.jpg caption="Fidel Castro met with the Brazilian president recently in Havana."]
(CNN) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Tuesday the resignation of Cuban President Fidel Castro should "mark the end of a dark era in Cuba's history."

In a written statement, the senator from Illinois added:

"Fidel Castro's stepping down is an essential first step, but it is sadly insufficient in bringing freedom to Cuba. Cuba's future should be determined by the Cuban people and not by an anti-democratic successor regime.

"The prompt release of all prisoners of conscience wrongly jailed for standing up for the basic freedoms too long denied to the Cuban people would mark an important break with the past. It's time for these heroes to be released.

"If the Cuban leadership begins opening Cuba to meaningful democratic change, the United States must be prepared to begin taking steps to normalize relations and to ease the embargo of the last five decades. The freedom of the Cuban people is a cause that should bring the Americans together."

John McCain, R-Ariz., also issued a written reaction to the media.

"Today's resignation of Fidel Castro is nearly half a century overdue. For decades, Castro oversaw an apparatus of repression that denied liberty to the people who suffered under his dictatorship.

"Yet freedom for the Cuban people is not yet at hand, and the Castro brothers clearly intend to maintain their grip on power. That is why we must press the Cuban regime to release all political prisoners unconditionally, to legalize all political parties, labor unions and free media, and to schedule internationally monitored elections.

"Cuba's transition to democracy is inevitable; it is a matter of when - not if. With the resignation of Fidel Castro, the Cuban people have an opportunity to move forward and continue pushing for the moment that they will truly be free. America can and should help hasten the sparking of freedom in Cuba. The Cuban people have waited long enough."

Democrat Hillary Clinton also welcomed the news that Castro is stepping down.

She told an economic roundtable: I just want to say a word about a development today that is very significant. Fidel Castro has decided to step down as the leader of Cuba.

"And I think this provides a great opportunity for the people of Cuba. I am hoping that the new leadership will take steps to move Cuba toward democracy - release political prisoners - lift a lot of the oppresive burdens that have prevented the Cuban people from really having the kind of future they deserve to have.

"Certainly the people of the United States would meet a new government to talk about what needs to happen if that new government takes some action that demonstrates they are willing to change. So, we are hoping that we see some evidence of that.

"It is a very stark reminder that even if you have been in power for 50 years - you cannot hold onto power forever, and the people of Cuba deserve to have leadership that respects their human rights and gives them the opportunity to you know fulfill their own destiny.

"And we need a president who will work with countries around the world in Europe and the Western Hemisphere to push Cuba now to join the community of nations and to become a democracy. And I will certainly do that as president."

Former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said in a statement that "The Cuban people deserve nothing less than free and fair elections which would provide the only hope for a prosperous and democratic Cuba.

"Until Fidel Castro is dead, there can be no significant movement towards reform in Cuba. Raul Castro has proven that he's as much a tyrant and dictator as his brother Fidel. Simply providing more power to another dictator does nothing to promote freedom and democracy to the Cuban people."

Update (12:20pm) to include Clinton and Huckabee statements

Related video: Castro resigns

soundoff (299 Responses)
  1. Frank of DC

    Hillary Clinton hasn't even commented on such an important event? She is clearly not ready for the presidency. Obama seems to be prepared for international stage, and his comments are on target.

    OBAMA 08

    February 19, 2008 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  2. Frank of DC

    Does Hillary support Castro?...she hasn't said anything. Maybe she is sad Fidel is gone.

    February 19, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  3. California Voter

    I'm surprised we haven't heard reports of Senator Clinton and her main campaign staff collapsing from extreme dizzyness caused by spinning around in circles too much in one weekend.

    One day, they're saying that "words don't count" and then the next day, they're trying to flog a ridiculous story about Barack lifting language from his good friend. News flash Clinton campaign: politicians reference the Declaration of Independence all the time.

    Is that all they have? Is that ALL THEY HAVE? A kindergarten essay and a charge that he refers to the Declaration of Independence just like another politician did? I'd hate to be head of opposition research in the Clinton campaign right now. Every time you report back to Mark Penn and Hillary, you must get your head chewed off for "not getting anything we can use."

    February 19, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  4. D Boyce

    It should not be up to our government to decide what is correct for other countries. This is as wrong as the decision to invade Iraq was.

    February 19, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  5. John, Kansas City, MO

    US President George W Bush said the news should mark the beginning of a transition towards democracy for Cuba. "The international community should work with the Cuban people to begin to build institutions that are necessary for a democracy, and eventually this transition ought to lead to free and fair elections," he told reporters in Rwanda. "And we're going to help. The United States will help the people of Cuba realize the blessings of liberty."

    Now are we going to "help" Cuba transition towards democracy like we "helped" Iraq? When are we going to allow other nations to be sovereign?

    February 19, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  6. TheLeftNut

    πŸ™ Will Republicans win in November because Dems can't unite? πŸ™

    That depends on Clinton and Obama supporters having the courage to vote for the "other" democrat in November.

    πŸ™‚ "WE ARE THE DECIDERS!" πŸ™‚

    February 19, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  7. Dejavu

    "America can and should help hasten the sparking of freedom in Cuba." – John McCain

    Someone please explain to me why is it that the Republicans can ALWAYS seem to find the opportunity to help somebody else, while at the same time, running their own country in the ground. We can just barely help ourselves. We have a failing economy, millions are without healthcare....looks to me like WE'RE the one's that need to be freed. It's sad to say, but America is FAR from the days of being in the position to come to the rescue of everyone else around the world.

    February 19, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  8. John, Las Vegas, NV

    I expect to see Hillary's statement read something like "...it is sad that Obama has chosen to side with the Republican's likely nominee against a Latino President of a small island country...." or else "....what you are seeing is the culmination of pressure put on Fidel Castro during the 90's when Bill was President...."

    February 19, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  9. Ian

    I like McCain's ideas better. We should get our hands involved in yet another country's affairs.

    February 19, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  10. Sherrick

    Yep i agree with both Obama and Mc Cain thats what you call foreign policy they both issued the same statement lets wait and see Hillary's thats if she has one.

    Obama 08

    February 19, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  11. Kate

    And Clinton, Huckabee and Paul's statements? C'mon, CNN, these guys have not been anointed the nominees yet (except by the media). Please give us full coverage on the issues.

    February 19, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  12. john berthelot

    i think obama's comments are the most relative

    February 19, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  13. Voter, Omaha NE

    The media is really getting to be a waste of time–no longer do I read, see or hear an unbiased approach on anything newsworthy–its as if the media has already declared Obama the Democratic nominee and now gives short shrift to Clinton. I am sick of the media and their love affair with one guy–what happened to just doing your job instead of playing politics? Shame on all of you and God help us all!

    February 19, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  14. Hamza

    President Castro handed the power to his brother, Raul
    Ummm ...
    President Bush father handed the power to Bush son!
    President Clinton husband is working all possible and impossible to hand the power to wife Hillary!

    Ring a Bill!!!

    Stop the Monarchy in America!
    no room for Royalities and Families Regimes!!!

    February 19, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  15. Sparkle, MO

    I guess Hillary does not want to give an opinion for fear of saying the wrong thing and alienating the Latino vote, which she has constantly referred to as her only saving grace in Texas LOL. Cubanos unidad para BARACK OBAMA!

    February 19, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  16. Ned

    People should remember that Obama was the One who approached the subject of Cuba, from a different viewpoint than any other candidate, in August of last year.

    We need to begin some form of outreach to Cuba, so we can begin its evolution like with what is happening in Russia and China. It will be long and hard, and there is no guarantee but we need to begin the process of letting Cuba evolve its own type of democracy now by having the United States open its diplomatic channels and treating Cuba as an equal.

    February 19, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  17. Peter Canada 4 Obama!

    This is a sign the all countries need new people and new person brings new changes to country.
    The era of Fidel is over and here in America the era of Clinton fornicate and Bushes war monger will be over soon.

    We all need new person here in US and that person is Obama. Vote Obama if you want era of Clintons and Bushes to end.
    Good luck Cuba as you look forward for a new begining in your quest for a real democracy that will be free from Lobbyiest and those who want to defend them.

    God bless all those countries that need new life, new ways and a better changes.
    Our struggle will continue until everyone is treated equal.

    February 19, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  18. David

    U.S. looks like a big bully with Cuba...we have relations with Germany, Russia, and China. We even have relations with countries in the middle east like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Cuba cannot be a worst than the above countries in freedom. I think lifting the embargo is long overdue. Cuba is becoming the Palestine of the Americas. If we keep bullying Cuba, our relations will deteriorate with S. America, Central America and Mexico, who feel sympathy for the Cuban people.

    I expect the same from McCain and Billary. C'mon Obama be different!!

    February 19, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  19. HH, Pittsburgh, PA

    Yes, Castro's Communist Cuba is an enemy of the United States, but Communist China is a trading partner. What sense does this make?

    February 19, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  20. p-brain, Bucyrus, OH

    I'm still waiting for democracy to come to the United States! No more staged elections!

    February 19, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  21. zacheriah

    The truth is the people of cuba prefere castro to us. Why do you think the bay of pigs wen so badly. The reason we dont deal with cuba has nothing to do with Castro and Alot to do with The US governments arrogance

    February 19, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  22. Emilio Zola

    Stage the Cuban elections? Excuse me Mr Bush, but, what kind of elections we had here in the United State of America in 2000? Would you dare to say in the face of American that such elections were clean, legal ? Cubans in the island, like it or not, has had a government that a vast mayority love so much. Fidel Castro is for the 80% of those Cubans the hero that pushed out and finished a nasty corruption and criminal exploitation that we had impose in Cuba before 1959. Now, we repeat here in the United State as parrot the lies and nasty antiCastro propaganda that MiamiCubans, one of the most corrupt immigrant groups that we have received in te lst 100 years, spread through the American media. Castro became for them a big business and they made billions exploiting his name as a dangerous man. Nothing farest of the truth.

    February 19, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  23. Wayne, Greenville TX

    I heard George W. Bush on the radio this morning, saying that every time he sees a picture of Castro, he is reminded that evil exists in the world.

    You'd think that he's also be reminded that evil exists in the world every time he met with Dick Cheney or looked in the mirror.....

    February 19, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  24. kevin from alaska

    At least Cuba has free universal health care for all its citizens.

    February 19, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  25. Bob, Florida - RFO

    Good, very good! Cuba's situation should have been resolved well before now. I expected the Castro regime to have fallen shortly after the former eastern block and the Soviet Empire.

    I wonder who truly benefited from Fidel remaining in power! Cuba's a lot closer then Iraq so if our intent was to bring down global tyrant regimes with democracies maybe we should have started a little closer to home. If we had the β€œthorn” in Venezuela would not be in our [America] side today!

    February 19, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
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