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. JM

    If the difference needs to be explained to you, then you are in no position to be making comments. Your words belittle and offend the Cuban people and trivialize all that they have been through.

    February 19, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  2. Independent Observer


    The difference is the folks in Guatanamo are unrepentant murderers and vicious terrorist who abhor freedom and tolerance. They are a grave danger to our civilization and should be put out of circulation. I will howeveer not support torture/waterboarding or illegal detention of the innocent in Gitmo.The Cuban people on the other hand are polictical prisoners whose only offence is sharing a different polictical opinion from the Castro dictatorship.

    That said I agree with Obama that should Cuba do the right things the US should move to ease the embargo and restore relationships. Afterall we have continued to do business with the likes of Saudi Arabia and China who cannot be described as democratic.

    Where is Hillary who can lead on day one when you need her to have an opinion?

    February 19, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  3. Ann

    John McCain has the rigt answer, as usual. He knows that "true democracy" is the path to freedom. With Castro gone, the Cuban people will need help. He wants to use the US talents and strengths to help the Cubans.

    People who compare the peopl in Cuba to the prisoners in Guantanamo are wrong. The people in Guantanamo are threats to our safety, Castro was a threat to the safety of Cubans. Now that he is out, it is our duty as freedom fighters to help others.

    McCain will do this properly. He has the background and knowledge to help the Cubans. He does not see this as an overnight...and he is right. McCain knows, from experience, that freedom is a fight. He will protect the US, help the Cubans obtain true freedom and promote democracy everywhere.

    He is the future of our country.

    Vote McCain 2008!

    February 19, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  4. Julie

    Senator Clinton has a response to the news about Fidel Castro and the future of Cuba on her web site. It's likely Clinton had her response composed and posted hours before Obama talked.
    Why does it seem that the media too often gives Obama more attention?

    February 19, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  5. binary star

    Bruce – You're reaching big-time. McCain missed more votes and Clinton is not far away. Also, the two things are barely related.

    You're just mad because Hilary isn't going to say the same exact thing until this afternoon.

    February 19, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  6. Marlene in CLT

    If you'll read again, Obama's words only referred to easing the embargo and working towards normalizing America's relationship with Cuba – not jumping in and trying to save a country. Don't let Bush and his administration's actions continue creating attitudes of fear, that it's us against the world and everything begins to resemble the lead-up to Iraq. Try to move beyond the prejudgments we have been taught to make which may color the remarks and motivations of subsequent leaders. And Guantanamo is a little different than an entire country of innocent citizens who have been repressed for so many years. We are having a tough time right now here in the U.S., but no one can say we're being run into the ground. We are not afraid and we will do what is necessary to bounce back. Let's keep things in perspective, yes?

    February 19, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  7. Steve

    Funny. People seem to conveniently forget what came before Castro - namely Batista, a murderos dictator that denied education and health care to the vast majority of the population. Also, he came into power in a coup. And yet Castro is the devil. Cuba is not democratic and reform is needed. Perhaps the US dropping an embargo that has no point for the US could save a lot of lives in Cuba and make the world a better place. I would have liked John or Barack to have thanked Castro for stepping down and reaching out a hand to the next leader rather than slamming another opportunity for normal relations and desecalation in Cuba and the US for cheap political gains in Miami.

    February 19, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  8. judy

    It is time to recognize what Castro has done for Cuba while living with the embargo we placed on them. Sure it is not what our government sees as "democracy" I believe the Cubans are much better off than they were with Batista, a dictator, the United States supported while ignoring the misery Cubans faced.

    Ninety miles from Flordia they proved to be not the threat we have been fed for nearly fifty years. The statemens from Obama and McCain are just more "elect me..elect me" rhetoric.

    It is time to give Castro credit for the things he has done, and Che too.

    February 19, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  9. Kristal

    I believe that both of these candidates are basically saying the same thing. That goes to show that they are not so far apart on all foreign policies. I believe that it will be easier for the US to promote democracy around the world when we stop invading other countries because of their rich natural resources.

    By the way, where is Hillary?

    February 19, 2008 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  10. T

    Americans should not confuse these as pairs of interchangable terms: Capitalism and Freedom, Democracy and Capitalism, Socialist and Totalitarian, Socialism and Dictatorship. Capitalism is NOT the same as Democracy and Capitalism often works against the Democratic process.

    February 19, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  11. John

    I am no fan of Castro, but why do we treat Communist China different from Communist Cuba?

    If you were a female would you rather live in Cuba where you have limited rights or Saudia Arabia[American Ally] where you have virtually no rights?

    The answers are simple economics=China, oil=Saudia Arabia.

    Why don't we demand democratic elections in China, Saudia Arabia, Russia, etc.?

    February 19, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  12. Rex Lowe

    The resignation of Fidel Castro as Cuba's leader presents a golden opportunity for the USA to extend a long overdue olive branch. The political devide between these two countries has only created an oppressive situation for the citizens of both our countries, particularly the cubans. When pride creates such a gulf only the people suffer. ThE United States has historically been afraid of ideas. Cuba poses no threat to American security, why not sew-up relations and concentrate on creating Cuban consumers of American products and services like we did with China? We should also hope our current U. S. leadership will not attempt to impose "liberty and democracy" on Cuba as attempted in Iraq.
    Rex Lowe
    504 256-0765

    February 19, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  13. K in NH

    Have the nominations been decided already and I missed it? I do believe the Clinton campaign has issued a statement on Castro - why is this item limited to Obama and McCain?

    February 19, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  14. David, Dallas Tx

    McCain said, America can and should help hasten the sparking of freedom in Cuba

    Wow John, sounds like you want Bay of Pigs II. It's that kind of condescending attitude towards other nations that has brought us to where we are today. Of course, you support the war in Iraq too....

    We invade or forment rebellion in other nations using "Democracy" as our war cry but support Musharraf in Pakistan and other despotic regimes as soon as said despots indicate a willingness to work with us. We are a nation that sells out its ideals whenever our ideals become inconvenient.

    At least with you as president, the world would know to expect us to maintain the status quo.

    February 19, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  15. Dietrich

    Here's my simple but modest take on it:

    Firstly, Obama has stated that Guantanamo will be more when he's elected case in point! (Do your research Jason).

    How can McCain even comment when he nor his peers will even sit at a table to discuss any of the rhetoric he wrote in his statement. It's a case and point of sheer hypocricy. Negotiate out of strength not out of fear. We should not be in the politics of what they want to hear but what we need. Simple, politics of yesterday doesn't know how to respond to events of today.

    February 19, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  16. checkthisout

    I would now like to hear what they both have to say about a dear ally whose Party is facing defeat in PAKISTAN.

    Dictator Musharaff was a friend and an Ally of Bush.
    He will be defeated by the strength of Democracy.

    Castro was not defeated by Democracy but by ill health.

    Gobama Go, speak up !!!!!
    McCain is an echo of Bush.

    February 19, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  17. kigozi


    February 19, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  18. esb

    As critical as we are with the Cuban government, the people in general have been better off than the rest of latin america, where poverty, unemployment and crime are rampant. That is why so many want to get into this country. Cuba is based on a socialized co-op environment, where every one has a job and a place in society.
    How well have we helped the surrounding " democratic countries" prosper over the last fifty years. The fact is that we have failed them all. Unregulated corporate monopolies with food, resources and land grabbing would only serve but to hurt the Cuban people.
    I fear for them, not from within their government, but from governments like the United States. We need to stay out of their business. (We did a horrific job to the Iraq population)

    February 19, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  19. kevin from alaska

    Ryan Smith: You talk like somebody that has health care.

    My point is this: before we denounce Cuba as being so rotten, maybe we should take a look at ourselves. It's like Michelle Obama said - who could be proud to be an American with a dunce like George W Bush? a sleaze like Bill Clinton? and cruel figures like George HW Bush and Reagan?

    It's better to find one fault with yourself than 10,000 faults with somebody else.

    February 19, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  20. kigozi


    February 19, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  21. Rob


    Michelle Obama is not a former president, her words do not carry the weight and her influence does not carry the weight of the former president. As if you would even have the opportunity to gripe about this if Hillary's last name were "Rodham"...please.

    Just say 'NO' to dynastic politics.

    February 19, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  22. Surrealist, Ft. Myers, FL

    Kristal- no way they're saying the same thing!!!

    Foreign Policy 101: define your expecations–be specific. define the consequences of action and inaction; maintain the most effective position of power during negotiation; ensure political leadership clearly understands expectations for establishing further dialogue.....

    Obama blew smoke–just like all the rest of his rhetoric.
    Untested, untrainable, unwilling, unready.

    Vote McCain 2008–or live w/ the stupid and easily preventable consequences....

    February 19, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  23. Mrlgh of Toronto

    Hey Frank of DC, just because Ms. Clinton has not yet given her comments about Fidel Castro does not mean she is not fit to sit in the White House. Maybe she's thinking of the consequences of her actions/words....you American's are too eager to run off guns a blazing without thinking of the consequences...do you need examples?

    February 19, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  24. Lisa

    Freedom equals universal health care?!?!?! Under Hillary's plan, she–not I– will decide how much I can afford to pay for health care and deduct it from my pay check or fine me. That doesn't sound free to me.

    February 19, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  25. Trading Wine for Beer

    Since CNN likes to ignore anything worth reporting in regards to Hillary, She did Indeed Make a Statement about Castro. Here it is for those of you who like CNN to spoon feed you and can't visit her website to find out the truth:

    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 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
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