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. anonymous

    The Cuban people deserve nothing short of free internationally monitored elections, release of all political prisoners and freedom to form political parties, freedom of religion and the press.

    Surprisingly, of all presidential candidtates, it was Hillary Clinton that had the weakest response. Obama 's release was perfect as was McCains and Huckabees. However, no one holds the Cuban peoples interest, as dearly as our current president – George W. Bush.

    VIVA CUBA LIBRE – long live a FREE CUBA!!

    February 19, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  2. Oops, you did it again

    Just like when John Edwards suspended his canidacy, the Political Ticker at first only reported Obama's comments when Hillary had issued a response at the same time.

    Come on, CNN! Show some journalistic integrity!

    February 19, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  3. Kareem from Hampton VA

    Well Dave being that this is a counrty made up of immigrants I would love to see what "our people' would mean? You said the cuban AMERICAN vote so again what is "our people"?

    February 19, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  4. John

    If you think we are free in this country you had better look again. I have lived here all my life and I am just speaking real. I am not free as our 4 fathers wanted nor are you. This guy did nothing but fight for what he belived in and the people allowed this. If cuba wants to be free, then let THEM fight for it, like we did. Have fun the free people of the united states.......freaking joke!

    February 19, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  5. po'd

    if the release of political prisoners is a condition to lifting the US-Cuban embargo then how can the US justify the fact we trade with countries like China who have a pretty strong track record of imprisoning political dissidents.

    all of this rhetoric just proves that all of these politicians are the same. trade with china because its in our best interests. keep the embargo on cuba because in the end its just a small country that will never have the same economic impact on the US that trading with China has and at the same time we get to keep all the old grumpy Cubans who were displaced 50 years ago but who now are citizens of a new country (the US) happy.

    it shouldn't matter what some displaced yet reasonably established cuban american has to say anymore. all that should matter is the impact of our policies on the people living in that country now.

    February 19, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  6. John Thomas, Des Moines, IA

    McCain is like, "Huh? Economy? What? Lets stay in Iraq for 100 more years," Smart, real smart

    February 19, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  7. Tim

    Where is Hillary? Love it...

    Hey Hill lovers, google "Hillary Movie" and check it out...then decide who you're going to vite for...Anyone who says she is about change is a fool.

    February 19, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  8. Jonathan

    That's really funny of Obama. He's quick to comment on Fidel's stepping down, but it took him a day and a half to comment on the shootings at Northern Illinois University - a state which he is supposed to be representing in congress.

    Is he a representative for the people of Cuba or the United States?

    February 19, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  9. VT DEM

    Clinton did issue a statement, they just haven't been reporting on it, as most of the media is trying to get Obama elected.

    February 19, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  10. Lisa Gross

    I agree with Michelle Obama, I too feel proud of my country right now. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical about a black man getting a fair shot at the presidency and it makes me feel good to see how fair americans are. If this election is stolen from Obama because of the superdelegates I will not support the democratic ticket at all this year in protest. I will write in Barack Obama on the ticket!

    February 19, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  11. Zach

    Good news, not that it will make any political change in Cuba. We need to life our embargo so the Catros can't scapegoat us for Cuba's dire economy. We need to life the embargo so that Cubans can see hope for a better life. We toppled totalitarianism in Eastern Europe by engaging the people, we've perpetuated the totalitarianism in Latin America by isolating it. The embargo helps keep the Castros in power. End it!

    February 19, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  12. Kentucky

    Hillary is probably already thinking about a new trade deal with Cuba.
    Lets see whose jobs will go next. The only real winner will be Wallmart when its all over.

    February 19, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  13. A cuban who live in Cuba

    What Obama or McCain cares about Cuba????? Bill Clinton was the only president who opened the doors so families could meet after 20 years. Is very depresing how anything now its Politics.
    Cuba should resolve its issues by itself Thank you Obama or McCain we are not interesting in your help.

    People of Cuba

    February 19, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  14. McCoy

    Wish you didn't vote for hillary now, don't you florida?!

    February 19, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  15. Moe, NY

    Our government needs to focus on America not other countries. Our country is hurting from damaged infrastructure, corrupt government, and on and on. Why is it that our government tries to push democracy on other countries when, perhaps, they do not welcome it? Our government needs to mind its own business and the business of America. At least Cuba has helath care for all of its citizens. President Bush just gave money to Africa and, bless them, they are smart people...they are using most of it to improve their infrastructure while, in the meantime, America's infrastructure continues to crumble.

    February 19, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  16. Praetorian, Ft. Myers, FL

    We've had a permanent military force in Cuba your whole lifetime bloke.


    We choose not to invade as a nation. Hoping to use trade restrictions and other pressures to move them towards a democratic direction.

    Have any of you guys read ANY history books?

    February 19, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  17. NY

    Just because CNN doesn't report it doesnt mean Senator Clinton didn't say anything, grow a brain really. Below is what she said.

    "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."

    February 19, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  18. Dan

    Hillary where are you? oh wait, oh, your gone, not caring, oh, i see, all you care about is winning. Oh ok, i get it, your just digging up obama's past in order to attack him with it, o ok, thats fair.

    Obama 08

    February 19, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  19. pmet

    Andrea –
    Two things. First, you are misquoting Michelle Obama. She said "for the first time in my life I am really proud . . . " Note the word "really" which implies more proud than normal. It does not mean she has never been proud of this country before. Words do matter - please do not omit important ones or try to spin them to suit your candidate. Second, CNN has been covering this on their television station every hour on the hour.

    February 19, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  20. ginny

    Independant Observer: So, if the Cubans are holding "political prisoners" they are pretty much good guys who have been denied their rights and should be released by a corrupt government. If the USA is "detaining" prisoners without any rights, they are dangerous and would kill you in an instant should you release them, therefore it's justifiable! Thanks for straightening me out on that, what was I thinking?!

    February 19, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  21. Praetorian, Ft. Myers, FL

    Lisa you are absolutely correct.

    Everything has a price. With socialism you give up your personal choices and let uncle Sam decide everything for you.


    February 19, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  22. Ed, Santa Fe NM

    Hillary says: "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."

    You know, Hillary... we deserve the same thing in this country..... NO TO DYNASTIC PRESIDENTS....

    February 19, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  23. david

    Again, CNN dedicates half a page of a WRITTEN statement by Obama...then, only after McCains comment, lastly mentions Hillary's VERBAL statement. So biased. I wonder if anyone will ever believe them again?

    Wonder who wrote Obama's statement for him?

    February 19, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  24. Alex H

    CNN –

    I have followed your commenting policy. My comments are not threatening or contain anything illegal or obscene and yet I see many harsh and irrational comments allowed through.

    I may address other commenters in my comments but I do not disrespect anyone unless they have been disrespectful themselves (in which case they shouldn't be allowed to be posted... its your rules, right?).

    So many comments that come through this blog are harshly worded, have false information, and quite often are radically off topic. The comments I provide to this blog that seem to be removed most often are ones used to correct horribly inaccurate and misinformed comments. I've defended many candidates regardless of my political affiliation. I'm a liberal independent and I've even defended Romney, whom I don't agree with, when he was attacked for being a Mormon by a hardcore Christian on this blog because I couldn't sit quiet and allow comments like that to go without a counterargument. Yet you don't allow them.

    I'd like some consistency and some explanations please.

    Thank you

    February 19, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |


    February 19, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
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