Personalities from across the political spectrum within the United States reacted positively yesterday to the confirmation that Cuba and the U.S. will soon enjoy full diplomatic relations and embassies in their respective capitals.
Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, tweeted that the opening of embassies was a “Good step for US & Cuban people.”
Patrick Leahy, Senator for Vermont and veteran advocate for rapprochement with Cuba, issued a statement to congratulate the leaders of both countries. “Finally, after 55 years a failed, punitive and ineffective policy of isolation is ending,” he said.
Chris Murphy, Democratic Senator for Connecticut, applauded the President's decision, saying in a statement that the U.S. can now “learn the lessons of our past so that we can be more secure in the future.”
Ben Cardin, the most senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, also said that it was a step forward in a common sense approach toward Cuba adding that “we are moving in a more hopeful direction.”
Meanwhile, the former head of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba, Wayne Smith, welcomed the announcement. “At last, at last after so many barren years we are going to have productive relations,” he said in an interview with Prensa Latina.
OBAMA ALSO FINDS SUPPORT IN REPUBLICAN RANKS
Obama also found support among the ranks of the Republican Party. Nevada Senator Dean Heller, said that Washington and Havana continue on a path towards one day permitting travel between the two countries, which will lead to many opportunities for the benefit of both peoples.
“Re-establishing diplomatic relations is a step in the right direction,” Heller, who recently visited Cuba for the first time, stated.
Jeff Flake, another Republican who has championed a change of policy towards Cuba for years, celebrated the news on his Twitter account.
Meanwhile, Republican Bradley Byrne, member of the House of Representatives, called on Obama to work with Congress to reform relations between the U.S. and Cuba, through his official Twitter account.
James Williams, president of the bipartisan Engage Cuba coalition, which seeks the elimination of barriers between Washington and Havana, also issued a statement. ““We applaud this important step in bringing the U.S. and Cuba closer together, and urge Congress to hasten the day when American travelers and companies have the freedom to engage with one of our nearest neighbors.”
Although support for Obama's decision was predominant, several raised their voices in disagreement, especially from within the Republican ranks and certain politicians of Cuban origin.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Republican John Boehner, criticized the move and said it gave “legitimacy” to the current Cuban government without obtaining anything in return.
The former governor of Florida and Republican presidential candidate, Jeb Bush, spoke in similar terms and described the steps taken by Obama in normalizing relations with Cuba as “dubious diplomatic achievements.”
Marco Rubio, Florida Senator of Cuban origin and also a Republican presidential candidate, said that it was time to stop the “unilateral concessions” to Cuba.
Ted Cruz, Republican Senator for Texas and aspiring president, said in a statement that Obama “is continuing his policy of unconditional surrender to Fidel and Raul Castro.”
Meanwhile, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen stated that “Opening the American Embassy in Cuba will do nothing to help the Cuban people and is just another trivial attempt for President Obama to go legacy shopping.”
THE NEWS HITS THE HEADLINES
The news that the U.S. is gradually closing a chapter of the Cold War with Cuba had a global impact, with the U.S. mass media dedicating space to it on their front pages, although these were shared with other issues such as the situation in Greece and outrage over multiple murders and racism in the country.
The New York Times led with “Announcing Cuba Embassy Deal, Obama Declares ‘New Chapter’,” while the Washington Post led with “Obama hails 'historic step forward' for US and Cuba with plan to reopen embassies.”
Meanwhile, other media highlighted a new Chicago Council Survey which indicates that 67% of Americans support the end of the blockade against Cuba.
According to this source, the support is bipartisan with 79% of Democrats in agreement, while 59% of Republicans favor an end to the blockade, together with 63% of Independents.