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. Michael

    not only that dejavu but what does "hasten" mean? Military action? Yikes.

    February 19, 2008 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  2. George Barbour

    Lift the embargo!! Economic freedom and Democracy go hand in hand. For fifty years we punished the Castros; however, we also punished the millions of people living in Cuba, something we do not do to Communist countries like China.

    February 19, 2008 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  3. Mike

    Obama says it is the end of a dark era for Cuba. Cuba has universal healthcare does that mean that Obama wants to lead the US into a dark era under him by that logic?

    Dont buy the Audacity of Hype, back Hillary a real candidate.

    February 19, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  4. northscottsdale

    dejavu, if you think its bad here in america, try going to cuba. maybe then you will understand how free we really are. and yes we do need a better health care system but not hillary's "universal" bull crap that would never work. we already pay the bill for poor people who cant afford their hospital bill, we need to change to something different

    February 19, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  5. chris24

    Good job, boys.

    Say the right things so you look good while
    running for office.

    Our election process is a joke. Sound bites,
    photo ops. No normal person could stand
    to run for office for two years.

    No wonder we end up with the Bushes, etc.
    No one else would run.

    How about Bill Gates for President?

    February 19, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  6. Mitur Bin Isdirti

    Helping Cuba would be helping ourselves. If we end the embargo with Cuba and begin to trade with this new market, our own economy would improve. Opening up this new market, would help the U.S. Industry, and the workforce. We would also be helping the people of Cuba who need the goods and services we can supply. The people of Cuba would also benefit because new industries would form, new employment opportunities and increased wages. Castro has kept these people in poverty. Cuba is in our hemisphere, lets help them and help ourselves.

    February 19, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  7. chelle

    And once again America reveals its hypocrisy to the world. An embargo on the tiny island nation of Cuba but hey you go China!!! Do what ever you like! Host the Olympics – we'll be there with bells on! China jails anyone they please...China abuses power...China has the capability to actually damage the US and America places an embargo on Cuba?

    I really admire Barack Obama but this answer is political rhetoric and nothing else. I expect an answer like that from John McCain but not Obama. I expect him to have the courage to say enough. Lift the embargo NOW. Not at some future date when democracy rules (worked really well in Pakistan and Iraq). Cuba poses no danger to us and is no more a danger to its people than many other nations we do business with every day.

    February 19, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  8. David H

    While the resignation of Fidel is a great step forward for the hope of the Cuban people is it not yet the ideal situation. HOWEVER, with this step in the right direction, the US should make overtures to Cuba to normalize relations and end the embargo. This is the way to show the Cuban people that we are here to support them and any moves forward that they make. WE need to make a step in the right direction. When Nixon went to China, had they done anything to make their status in the world any more democratic? It is only since the NIxon trip that they have made moves towards capitalism and any sort of easing of social issues. And the have MOST FAVORED NATION status!!

    The US needs to make the next positve move with Cuba relations.

    February 19, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  9. Darth Vadik, CA

    What is this fascination against Cuba.
    Yes Fiedel is ruthless, yes he pushes and kills people in his way, but we have supported people ten thousand times worse than Fiedel (at least they have good free healthcare and free education), when it suited us.

    But they are communist, SO WHAT, IF THEY WANT SOMETHING ELSE, LET THEM RISE UP AND OVERTHROW THEIR GOVERNMENT. We have to deal with the government they have, not the government we want them to have (sound familiary, eh).

    Good Lord get off of this anti-Cuba bandwagon, they are our neighbors, lets treat Cuba with some respect, this scorched-earth policy DOES NOT WORK.

    MY-WAY-OR-NO-WAY is NOT a foreign policy. Its a continuation of a disaster we're in right now.


    February 19, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  10. Darth Vadik, CA


    February 19, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  11. politicaltiger

    Good for both of them. I like Obama and Mccain , Clinton is the only candidate I would never vote for.

    I hope the next prez will life sanctions if the new gov leaders of Cuba are willing to democratize their country a little more.

    February 19, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  12. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    Send in the Marines, if we have any who aren't in Iraq or Afghnaistan, and annex Cuba as a suburb of Gitmo.

    February 19, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  13. Dan Wouk

    Dubyah hugger McCain talks a good game but doesn't seem to put his money where his mouth is. The most recent indication of his hypocrisy came last week when he voted to keep waterboarding as an American practice. Who is he to criticize any regime as repressive when he supports an illegal war and the use of torture? Hero? Maybe once but not any more.

    February 19, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  14. Louis McKenzie

    Fidel Castro is the kind of President that all of the countries of Latin America need. To date Latin America has been in subserviantcy to the United States. The majority of the people live in Slavery and the governments support the dengration and servitude of the people. In Brasil a great majority of the people make less than 10.00 USD per day. With the inflation levels and taxes much greater. Therefore causing the people to live in credit slavery. Castro said no to this. Chaves says no to this. All latin american countries need to say no to this. God Bless Fidel Castro!!!!

    February 19, 2008 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  15. FELISA

    At least Senators Obama and McCain had a response. Where's Hillary? I know she trying to find some more mud to sling. Bill and Hill needs to just go away.

    February 19, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  16. Oliver

    Plow Cuba over, build the casinos and spin the wheel already!!

    February 19, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  17. Sarah L, Fayetteville, AR


    Obama believes that Guantanamo should be shut down–there is no difference there.

    I do believe it is insincere for the Republicans to act as if they care about ordinary people. In bringing 'freedom' to Iraq, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been slaughtered.

    February 19, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  18. Jonathan Forbes--Independent

    Dejavu, we still have an extremely strong economy. We have the strongest military in the world. We are still the only superpower. Our healthcare system is much better than those in many other countries. And, our country is still a beacon of freedom throughout the world.

    We still can help people who wish for freedom in other nations. We should "help hasten the sparking of freedom in Cuba."

    February 19, 2008 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  19. Grown Up

    Castro imprisoned people just because their ideas were contrary to him. Guantanamo prisoners actually attacked and killed citizens of this country, or conspired to do so, Jason. Grow Up. Put down the Kool Aid.

    February 19, 2008 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  20. B from Miami, FL

    Hillary also just released a statement. CNN, please be balanced and post her comment also. She offers a more realistic, detailed and concrete position.

    February 19, 2008 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  21. TRM

    The failed U.S.A. policy towards Cuba still has not hit some politicians who insist on sticking with the political policies of yesterday which have not worked in more than 50 years. Senator Obama is on the right track when he says the U.S. should meet with its foes and discuss issues. We should not be setting preconditions and demanding concessions in order to meet. All issues should be discussed at the table. We don't set conditions to meet with China. Why should we Cuba.

    February 19, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  22. Darla, Canada

    "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." Barack Obama in the article.

    I do not understand the quote from Mr Obama above. It sounds good but what does it mean.? What does"meaningful democractic change" mean – surely this will mean open democratic elections that are monitored internationally and fair? Similar to recent elections in Pakistan? Is the Russian or Chinese model of "democracy" acceptable? After all the US has no trade embargoes with Russia and certainly not China. Why the double standard then? It is about time Mr. Obama was more specific on these issues. Ask now or regret later.

    February 19, 2008 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  23. Naturalized Citizen

    Simple really, we Republicans believe that each individual is best equipped taking care of themselves, not the government. We believe in free market solutions, not government solutions. America is a FREE country, with everybody allowed to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. YOU determine your future, through your actions and decisions, nobody else.

    Unfortunately, some of our friends in foreign countries are not yet free to pursue their dreams. If US doesn't help them, who do YOU think will? UN? LOL.

    Quit whining, roll up your sleeves and start working for your own future.

    February 19, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  24. Thimbletack

    Why isnt China included for the freedom call?Sounds like money is more important than freedom to me.

    February 19, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  25. Tara

    I'm surprised Clinton didn't make a statement. Unfortunately, this gives Obama a lead, showing that he is decisive on an issue.

    February 19, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12