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. Alex H


    I agree... that's why there's a United Nations... not that they do much anyways. I guess when one country threatens another country's freedoms the UN will actually do something. However, if its the government of the country that's threatening freedoms they sit back and twiddle their thumbs... I can see why we would feel morally compelled to help but how can we help everyone else at the expense of ourselves. Priorities are important and as much as foreign policy is important I won't be electing a president based on how they want to improve OTHER countries.

    February 19, 2008 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  2. Sam


    You forget too quickly that both Obama and McCain have also called for the closing of Guantanamo.

    February 19, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  3. Kareem from Hampton VA

    I would love to see how this plays out!! This is going to very interesting to see how this will affect the campaign especially if they do another contest in Florida!

    February 19, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  4. Cindy

    Guantanamo is Bush's baby, not Obama or McCain's. I remember in one of Obama's speeches, he talked about closing Guantanamo. I don't know what McCain's feelings about Guantanamo is.

    February 19, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  5. Praetorian, Fort Myers, FL

    The differences between our GITMO prisoners and Castro's political prisoners.

    The GITMO residents were arrested in a time of war.
    The GITMO residents were suspected of being directly involved, planning or supporting insurgents or al quida–who have levied violent attacks on us and our allies.
    Some of the GITMO residents were arrested during armed confrontations with our forces!!

    The political prisoners of Cuba:
    Are citizens and have not committed ANY criminal offenses.
    They were arrested after writing, speaking or being suspected of political dissent against the communist regime.
    They were not party to violent actions or groups–just speaking out for the most part.

    In short–there's a world of difference!!

    February 19, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  6. Bradley Schaubs, Greeley, CO

    John McCain said, "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."

    What if Cuba delegates a new leader, rather than letting the citizenry vote on the issue? Is he going to send a permanent military force to Cuba like he's already planning with Iraq?

    And Bruce, I'd like to say that I found your comment incredibly offensive. Grow up!

    February 19, 2008 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  7. Chris

    "The freedom of the Cuban people is a cause that should bring the Americans together."

    I think it would be great for the Cuban people, but to say it would bring americans together, hows that? Is that something said after each Obama statement?

    Chris from NY

    February 19, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  8. charles burruss

    cuba is not a US problem

    February 19, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  9. Brian Wicks

    All aspiring Presidents should pay more attention to sort out things at home – issues closer to our hearts such as economy, literacy, employment ect before trying to advice the rest of the world on how to conduct their own affairs. I have no problem in politicians helping the world, provided they do it with their personal wealth. They can use my tax money after all the requirements at home have been met.

    February 19, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  10. Katherine

    Just because Castro is stepping down doesn't mean anything has changed. I would say we should all watch over the next few months and see where this all goes. It's too early to feel optimistic about anything until you have seen what new regime will replace the old.

    February 19, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  11. Jen, Gainesville


    I think you were talking about Obama's "present" vote in IL. Please keep in mind that Obama voted "present" for only about 2% of the votes he casted in his 8-year tenure. If you do some research, you wil find that "present" votes are a special feature in the IL system and if used well the votes help move things to the right direction.

    February 19, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  12. Terry from El Paso, TX

    There are three so-called Communist nations left in the world. Cuba, which we have been tough with for 45 years, Communist Vietnam which outlasted us until we left, and Communist China, who owns much of our national debt, who provides us with most of our manufactured goods, much of our food, much of our pet food, and many of our kid's toys.

    Let's not be too arrogant about running old Castro out of office after almost 50 years when we are in bed with the largest Communist country in history.

    And let us now release Cuba from quarantine. Let us support the Cuban people in every way.

    February 19, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  13. Nicholas Nigeria

    Obama I think you are right. Its time to step in diplomacy to stop the castros from occupying that seat again. Cubans need to be free. But America needs it first. So go and continue your campaign.

    Nicholas Nigeria

    February 19, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  14. thomasz

    It's commical to here a Rebulicon call for the legalization of labor unions in Cuba while they do everything they can to suppress and outlaw them here in the U.S.

    February 19, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  15. Hong

    Americans should leave Cuba along for now. Democracy should happen inside-out, and cannot be injected. I believe that Cuba will embrace democracy much quicker without the intervention of the US. Democracy is in the best interest of the countries on this planet including Cuba.

    February 19, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  16. Ca Native

    I'll bet Hillary speaks glowingly of Castro – since he all but endorsed her last year.

    I hope everyone remembers Bill Clinton's (and by Hillary's definition of 35 years of experience) terrorist-type snatch-and-run of Elian Gonzales so the boy could be returned to Cuba at Castro's request.

    February 19, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  17. kelly

    You know, Hillary has released a thoughtful statement on Castro, as well. Just like CNN to exclude her from the headline so they can push their insipid darling on the public.

    February 19, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  18. Allison, NH

    Jason – Couldn't agree more! I heard Bush today saying similar comments, and all I could think about was what a hypocrite he is! At least Obama talked about "normalizing relations"...whereas, Bush and McCain state nothing to that fact.

    February 19, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  19. Darrell

    There isn't a difference Jason, which is why they are both pledging to close Guantanamo when they become president.

    February 19, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  20. Bob

    The American embargo has been on for 50 years to no avail, “It has not work”, the embargo has been a tool for republicans as well as democrats to obtain the Florida Cuban vote, meanwhile the rest of the world has normal trading relationship with Cuba. Chinese, Germans French, Canadians, and others have enjoyed a good and profitable presence in Cuba, meanwhile American business had to look from afar unable to compete.
    Its time for the USA to step to the plate and negotiate an end to the embargo..!! Fair and free elections should be at the front of the negotiations, as long as the intent is based on mutual respect and understanding, a compromised should prevail.

    February 19, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  21. no, I had a hunka pipe

    Helping Cuba by ending the embargo would not only help the people of Cuba, it may give a boost to our economy. It certainly could not hurt us to open new markets in our own hemisphere.

    February 19, 2008 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  22. dave

    Wow, doesn't take long for Obama and McCain to suck up to the Cuban-Americans in Florida, huh?
    How about we start taking care of our own people first?

    February 19, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  23. 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 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  24. JG

    It is time to end the long-term embargo that has never worked and change the status of Cuba on matters of trade and travel to at least equal that of China. We need to engage Cuba and not boycott it.

    February 19, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  25. Andrew

    What's the difference between Gitmo and Cuba? Goodness. Political prisoners are exactly that. These are folks who were locked away because they stood up against Castro, often non-violently. Meanwhile, the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay are there under suspicion of actual criminal wrongdoing. Many of them are suspected terrorists, and others committed various military crimes. So, free-speech crimes versus acts of terrorism and other violence. I would hope we could see the difference.

    From Wikipedia.org:

    Since the beginning of the War in Afghanistan, 775 detainees have been brought to Guantanamo, approximately 420 of which have been released. As of August 9, 2007, approximately 355 detainees remain. More than a fifth are cleared for release but may have to wait months or years because U.S. officials are finding it increasingly difficult to line up places to send them, according to Bush administration officials and defense lawyers. Of the roughly 355 still incarcerated, U.S. officials said they intend to eventually put 60 to 80 on trial and free the rest. On February 9, 2008, it was reported that six of the detainess at the Guantanamo Bay facility would be prosecuted for conspiracy in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

    February 19, 2008 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
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