May 25, 2008
Obama Says He’D Negotiate With Cuba
By BETH REINHARD, ALFONSO CHARDY and CASEY WOODS, MC CLATCHY NEWSPAPERS
MIAMI In a bold and politically risky move, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama called for "direct diplomacy" with communist Cuba before a prominent Cuban-American organization Friday.Obama made the pitch to a Republican-leaning constituency that is one of the keys to presidential victory in Florida.
Obama outlined to the Cuban American National Foundation a new Cuban policy approach. He did so to an audience accustomed to presidential candidates coming to show solidarity but not to challenge the long-standing isolation of the island's dictatorship.
"Now I know what the easy thing is to do for American politicians ... every four years, they come down to Miami, they talk tough, they go back to Washington, and nothing changes in Cuba," said Obama. "After eight years of the disastrous policies of George Bush, it is time, I believe, to pursue direct diplomacy, with friend and foe alike, without preconditions."
He repeated previous statements that if elected president, he would immediately lift the limits on Cuban-Americans who want to travel to Cuba or send remittances to family on the island. And he spoke about his often-criticized willingness to meet with Cuban leader Raul Castro.
"There will be careful preparation. We will set a clear agenda," Obama said. "And as president, I would be willing to lead that diplomacy at a time and place of my choosing, but only when we have an opportunity to advance the interests of the United States, and to advance the cause of freedom for the Cuban people."
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