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. Walt, Belton,TX

    Two mature reponses that do America proud. The one missing probably wouldn't.

    February 19, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  2. Charlotte

    The younger generation does not know how close we came to war during the Bay of Pigs. JFK took a hard stand against Russia and the installations of missiles in Cuba. The people of Cuba have suffered at the hands of Fidel. If there is any change at all, it will be better then it is today. We need a leader who can push for change. Maybe, if Obama is the next President he can make them feel better, while nothing really changes.

    February 19, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  3. Sheep are the answer

    It is great to see that Cuba has a chance to join the Democratic world in the near future and support is needed but I hope that the world can provide that support without strings being attached. Cubans are educated people and the development of all views should be strongly encouraged. I hope that future elections would produce a leader that has Cubas best interests at heart and not be a result of INternational meddling. We have already seen many countries that have suffered the consecuences of leaders being actively backed by foreign entities.

    February 19, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  4. Fernandez

    Mr. Obama/McCain
    Freedom is not the most important thing for Cuba; we should have lifted the embargo a long time ago. The embargo has hurt the poor of Cuba. The embargo has not worked and will not work in Cuba or any other Country, it is time you --learned from this that an embargo only hurts the poor.
    I hope we had a better choice for President, foreign policy illiterates

    February 19, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  5. Anti-Social

    As soon as the U.S.gets in there it's going to turn into one great big resort and casino. In a matter of months it will resemble Miami and Puerto Rico. The Cubans will then become like the Puerto Ricans :smug because of their faaaaaabulous relationship with Tio Sam. Then they won't be able to do anything without the U.S.' knowing about it.

    February 19, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  6. John Q. Public

    Wow, what a stark difference in statements – McCain calls for freedom of political parties and labor unions, while Obama wants to lift the embargo!

    February 19, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  7. Pat Lambert

    Now if we could just get G.W. Bush to resign the world would be much better off.

    February 19, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  8. clara r davis

    It is a thought that the resignation of Fidel Castro is significant/we know that Hilary will glady take his place/she too has previous experience as she can be ready on day one and she can also twist facts as good as her husband. They both also are self lovers as Castro was

    February 19, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  9. therealist

    Should read:

    The resignation of Cuban President Fidel Castro marks the end of a dark era in Cuba's history brought onto it's people by a mindless dem US president that cared about little else but himself.

    A president whose greatest line definitely does not mirror his current day political party's slogan.. "Ask not what your country can do for you but you can do for your country"

    February 19, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  10. Ron, TX

    Wow, Obama is always on the ball with these things. What he said is exactly what we need to do. Giving Cuba the silent treatment hasn't worked in the past, and it won't work in the future. We need to normalize relations with them and not be afraid to talk to their leaders....

    February 19, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  11. Bruce

    Amazing! Obama couldn't make up his mind and vote on things that were IMPORTANT to the U.S., but he's got plenty to say about Castro! I'm so tired of hearing this Obama hot air!

    February 19, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  12. Jason

    The thing that stumps me on this article is that McCain and Obama are both saying how important it is for Castro to release all prisoners and free the people of Cuba. Last time I checked..... The U.S is doing the same thing at Guantanamo. Denying people their civil and constitutional rights without trial, without proper legal representation. So I would have to ask. What's the difference?

    February 19, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  13. Anonymous

    America is keeping prisoners in Cuba itself, with no basic rights and no charges. What standing do we have to pressure Cuba to release prisoners unless we are willing to act like a democratic country ourselves?

    February 19, 2008 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  14. Mikey, Miami

    I know its hard for some people *Cough* Cough* Tom Tancredo Cough** to believe that we here in Miami are part of the United States and are not a separate, dirty third world country, but it makes me so proud both of my country and of the accomplishments of my fellow Cuban-Americans in this country. If not for the success of people like my father and so many others who came from nothing, sought a better life in this country and worked hard from the ground up to succeed here, not only for ourselves but by bringing economic prosperity for so many of those around us, the American stance on Castro/Cuba wouldn't be so universal. In an age of partisan politics so extreme that even Roger Clemens is politicized along party lines, both parties are unified in the (correct) position on Cuba.

    Here's to more unification and less of the partisan division that we've grown accustomed to.

    OBAMA '08

    February 19, 2008 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  15. manubi

    I am surprised that the Clinton campaign hasn't issued a statement. Is this where she keeps her promise NOT to addressing issues related to the international anti-democracy leaders? Since she would not speak to any of the "axis of evils," I am interested in understanding how she is going to keep this country safe if we continue such "arrogant" stance on the foreign policy.

    February 19, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  16. George from Minneapolis

    McCain you don't have the right to dictate to Cuba what kind of government they should have. Just look at Iraq we all see how that is going. If that is the democracy you intend for the Cuban people, I am sure they can do without it.

    When I think of Cuba, I think of how upset America has been with them all of these years for kicking out the American appointed dictator Batista.

    I know that it is killing America to have Cuba so close and not control it. We can't wait for Castro to die so we can exploit his country and make money in Cuba.

    February 19, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  17. TM

    I was excited to read both canidates responses. I look forward to Obama becoming president of the United States.

    February 19, 2008 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  18. Kathryn Irby - Metairie, LA

    Fidel Castro is a credit to George W. Bush any day!

    Kathryn Irby
    Metairie, LA

    February 19, 2008 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  19. ConsDemo

    Time to look a normalizing relations with Cuba. The embargo is a cold war relic. I think Obama is more likely to do so than McCain. As for Hillary, who knows what she really believes (beyond her desire to hold office).

    February 19, 2008 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  20. floridian

    It should be interesting to read Sen. Clinton's statement about Fidel Castro's resignation. Wonder if she'll have Janet Reno write it?

    February 19, 2008 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  21. tina

    yes,lets also end this bush/clintons dynasty in america,we deserve better.i am open to both obama and mc cain but hilly billy hell no!

    February 19, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  22. Gabriel

    Why won't you (cnn) also report that Clinton has also put out a statement today about Castro? Your bias gives media across the world a bad name.

    February 19, 2008 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  23. Susan

    Would it be so wrong, CNN, to include Hillary Clinton's statement on this subject as well? Or have you already maxed out the coverage she is allowed for the week by Tuesday?

    February 19, 2008 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  24. Kathryn Irby - Metairie, LA

    Perhaps now, the Cubans will go back to their own country, and stay there!!

    Kathryn Irby
    Metairie, LA

    February 19, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  25. Myrna

    Castro is a True Hero in My book... ! Unfortunately Obama has it all wrong on this one...!! The Villain here is The US and its Policy towards the Cuban People.. By the way My Mother's Maiden Name was Castro, and I am Proud of It.. Just because He stepped down, DOES not mean that Cuba will regress and Sucumb to the Polices of the US.. Obama Has to do his Homework and Know that he is Truly Loved and admired here in The US and Orher Latin American Countries, ! His is a Legacy that will live on forever In Cuba and the World...

    February 19, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
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