WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement marking the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s engagement policy with Cuba.
“One year ago today, President Obama set forth a new course for U.S. policy towards Cuba grounded firmly in the belief that engagement represents the greatest opportunity to advance our national interests and support the Cuban people. With Alan Gross now home and the American flag once again flying over a U.S. Embassy in Havana, the United States and Cuba have opened channels of communication on law enforcement and counter narcotics cooperation, human rights, Internet connectivity, and longstanding property claims.
“As American business leaders, scientists, academics, and artists are increasingly engaging in purposeful travel to Cuba, they are forging important new relationships with the Cuban people and supporting the country’s rising entrepreneurial class. The U.S. Congress should take steps to make the Obama Administration’s advances permanent and lift all restrictions on American citizens traveling to Cuba. The dynamism of American society will make a positive contribution to empowering the Cuban people as they strive to build a brighter future for their country.
“The steps taken to date have resulted in small, but important changes on the island. However, I remain concerned that the Cuban government continues to jail political activists for exercising their rights to free expression and free assembly; restrict widespread Internet access and the emergence of a free press; and limit reforms that would demonstrate a respect for international labor rights.
“As the second year of renewed engagement is now underway, the Cuban government must make meaningful progress on these most essential matters. I remain committed to advancing human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba, and am hopeful the Cuban people will have the opportunity to build a society where democratic values and political pluralism are not only tolerated but encouraged.”