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. GH

    We are so high and mighty when we discuss other Countries and their definition of "freedom". How dare we will our beliefs on other nations. When will we learn?
    When Cubans decide they want freedom as defined by U.S. policy, it'll be up to Cubans to rise up and grasp it. Certainly not our business.
    With that said, I believe that Obama would have been an excellent choice to create a dialogue with Castro.

    February 19, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  2. Obama, The Audacity of Hype

    I am glad Obama took time to discuss with us the little island country of Cuba and it's era of darkness. I wonder how the shooting victims and families in Illinois are doing right now in Obama's political home state? I checked Obama for information on the people he directly represents for information but didnt find anything about that. I guess if the shooting happened in Cuba he could comment on it.

    February 19, 2008 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  3. Sharon

    Why can't the U-S keeps its nose out of other countries' business and spend some time cleaning up their own act? As a Canadian I am free to travel to Cuba. While I strongly oppose the Castro dictatorship, I have also seen a nation of people who are well educated and exceedingly healthy in both body and spirit, perhaps because they are not corrupted by the presence of the American fast food chains which would probably be the first things to appear should the U-S interfere. Hands of Cuba! I also think that the people of Kenya can resolve their differences without the intervention of Condoleeza Rice. Who designated the U-S as the world's police department???

    February 19, 2008 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  4. EddieJ

    All this shows is that we will continue with the same policies of embargo and isolation. This is what has kept Castro in power for decades and will ensure that his bro' can do the same. It sure doesn't do anything for the people of Cuba. I just can't understand the logic of spreading democracy at the point of a sword, or of denial of trade.

    February 19, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  5. La Raza

    Look at President Obama! He's already there.

    February 19, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  6. Sheryl

    Statement from Hillary Clinton on Fidel Castro
    "As you know, Fidel Castro announced that he is stepping down as Cuba's leader after nearly 50 years of one-man rule. The new leadership in Cuba will face a stark choice - continue with the failed policies of the past that have stifled democratic freedoms and stunted economic growth - or take a historic step to bring Cuba into the community of democratic nations. The people of Cuba want to seize this opportunity for real change and so must we.

    "I would say to the new leadership, the people of the United States are ready to meet you if you move forward towards the path of democracy, with real, substantial reforms. The people of Cuba yearn for the opportunity to get out from under the weight of this authoritarian regime, which has held back 11 million talented and hardworking citizens of the Americas. The new government should take this opportunity to release political prisoners and to take serious steps towards democracy that give their people a real voice in their government.

    "The American people have been on the side in the Cuban people's struggle for freedom and democracy in the past and we will be on their side for democracy in the future.

    "As President, I will engage our partners in Latin America and Europe who have a strong stake in seeing a peaceful transition to democracy in Cuba, and who want very much for the United States to play a constructive role to that end. The United States must pursue an active policy that does everything possible to advance the cause of freedom, democracy and opportunity in Cuba.

    "The events of the past three days, including elections in Pakistan and Kosovo's declaration of independence, are a vivid illustration of people around the world yearning for democracy and opportunity. We need a President with the experience to recognize and seize these opportunities to advance America’s values and interests around the world. I will be that President."

    February 19, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  7. California Independent

    Obama is speaking people. Just listen. Don't respond. Don't comment. Just listen. His word is all.......

    come in to the light.... come in to the light.....

    February 19, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  8. Jorge Sanchez

    Bruce you have absolutely no substance. Do YOU HAVE ANY IDEA of what has happened? Does everything have to be so biased. SOOO Political to you? Castro and Baptista tug of war has weighed heavily on the Cuban people for over 50 years! Its amazing how everyone critiques the candidates when they do something wrong, but discredit them when theyre doing something right. Also the Cuban community will care who spoke up first during election time in November. I admire OBama and McCain. They at least had the fortitude to release a written statement to the World their stances to this event, and Cuba as a whole.

    February 19, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  9. Tenn.

    According to these two guys its back to the good old days of a MAFIA controlled Batista style government in Cuba, whereas Gambling, Drugs, Prostitution, etc., was the norm.

    February 19, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  10. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Cuba has a successor to Fidel and if the Cuban people didn't seize the opportunity for a democracy while Castro was on his "death bed", no one should interfer. Freedom is not free and it's their battle to win.

    February 19, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  11. John Stevens

    We have helped keep Castro in power for decades – if we had opened up to Cuba years ago – Cuba would be a democarcy by now.

    February 19, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  12. ~Misha~

    ~ Why is it america always have to be the country to help all other countries. We need help at home too. who is gonna help us with all the domestic issues we currently have? Okay, yes , I can admit fidel castro resigning is a plus for cuba just like bush leaving the white house is for us. I think we need to change and fix america first before we try to change and fix anywhere else in the world.~ Republicans are always so quick to wanna help everyone else but destroy their own. geesh can u guys plz wise up.

    February 19, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  13. Dennis

    So, Bruce, are you going to be flabberghasted as well when Hillary releases her statement on Cuba? Or, are you just being selective with a candidate you don't support. By the way, get your facts straight on Obama's voting record.

    February 19, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  14. Bill

    Dejavu, Bruce and Jason. Right on!!!!!! That is typical of our todays Governments way of thinking. "Do what we say not as we do". Change! Obama not likely. McCain your in the Bush Camp, shame!

    February 19, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  15. Eric

    Let's see here, we sold our country basically to China and have friendly trade relations with them. They are no angels by any means. Is Cuba just not large enough ($$) that we just don't care about them? We are hippocrates. We should have long ago tried to build a better relationship with them so that when this time came, it would have been more likely the Cuban people would come together and speak out for freedom.

    February 19, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  16. Nathan

    The thing you have to understand though, is that Barack has no power over what goes on in Guantanamo Bay. Hopefully once he is elected president, that will change.

    February 19, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  17. Will

    "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?"

    It's not different. What's important to note however is Obama has pledged to close Guantanamo. From his site:

    "I also will reject a legal framework that does not work. There has been only one conviction at Guantanamo. It was for a guilty plea on material support for terrorism. The sentence was 9 months. There has not been one conviction of a terrorist act. I have faith in America's courts, and I have faith in our JAGs. As President, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists."

    February 19, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  18. John

    I guess I didn't get the memo that today is wacko-Tuesday in the comment business. Both McCain and Obama made positive and reasonable comments in the spirit of helping our neighbor become a democracy and treat its populous decently. But then I guess we will always have those in the US that demand a bigger piece of the pie at someone else's expense, not of their own,or who want us to be so "politically correct" with suspected terrorists as to invite another 9/11.

    February 19, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  19. Peaceful Breeze

    At least Hillary's not complaining for a change that Barack is stealing her ideas by speaking his mind about Cuba. I think she's getting a little bit paranoid.

    February 19, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  20. John, Kansas City, MO


    There is no difference...we've become a nation of hypocrites. Though I would bet that if Obama wins the Presidency, it won't be long before Gitmo is shut down.

    February 19, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  21. wycliffe

    True leadership has been reflected by Obama and McCain. Clinton is waiting on the side to see how the public reacts and make a comment later as usual.

    February 19, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  22. Murry

    Obama is the best candidate for successfully healing foreign relations.

    Obama 08

    February 19, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  23. Brenda

    As a Canadian who has travelled to Cuba on a couple of occasions, the people I met seemed to truly love their dictator. (I was invited into their homes and shared meals with 4 different families, spoke to people on the street and in outdoor bars and patios)Yes they were poor but take a look around America and canada, there are also poor. I took some of it with a grain of salt because of course "spies" were everywhere, but others really did truly believe that socialism was best and they did admire Castro. I met 2 repatriated Cubans who came back home to Havana and didn't want to live in the US anymore.
    Before the US senators cast their stones, look in your own back yard. We have a Canadian child being held in Guantanamo along with many others , when will these political prisoners be released. People denied civil liberties should be released not just in a dictatorship but surely in a democracy.
    bty I sincerely hope Obama becomes the next US President

    February 19, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  24. john

    I am confused is this not the one of the leaders that Obama said we should sit down and talk to,

    February 19, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  25. Alan

    Guantanomo is in Cuba, hum how ironic.

    We call for democracy while we don't even have one. Look those super delegates. Isn't it what they have in Cuba too? About 800 people deciding for the rest of the Cubans? Why did I bother voting if at the end these guys decide.

    They have UNIVERSAL health care in Cuba. Be sure what you with for.

    February 19, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
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