Tags: Castro-Cuba | jeff flake | cuba | open | castro | death

Sen. Jeff Flake Calls for Keeping Cuba Open After Castro's Death

("America's Newsroom")

By    |   Monday, 28 November 2016 01:54 PM

Fifty years of Fidel Castro's hold over Cuba led to the isolation and repressed freedoms of its people, and to close off relations with the Island nation could mean more of the same, Sen. Jeff Flake said today, disagreeing with President-elect Donald Trump's vow to rescind President Barack Obama's executive order to normalize relations with the island nation.

"Fidel Castro was a brutal dictator for a lot of years, for more than half a century, so I think that not too many will remember his reign very fondly, and they shouldn't," the Arizona Republican told Fox News' "America's Newsroom" program. 

"The question is, how can we increase the likelihood that Cubans in the future will have freedom and that we can accelerate that process?"

Flake, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, has been to Cuba 15 times over the past 15 years, and said he believes everyone wants freedom for the Cuban people, but it's difficult to determine how to make that possible. He also agreed that Obama should have been more forceful when speaking about Castro's death.

Meanwhile, Trump has taken a hardline stance against normalizing relations with Cuba:

 

 

But Flake said staying away from of Cuba is the wrong idea.

"I've been traveling down to Cuba for 15 years, the first half of that time under our so-called get tough policy, where very few Americans could travel down and we imposed isolation on Cuba," said Flake.

"There was very little freedom for the Cuban people. The second part of my time going to Cuba over the past several years has been after there was a bit of loosening, after Cuban-Americans were allowed to travel as frequently as they wanted to and remit as much money as they wanted to."

And as a result of loosening the strings, 25 percent of the Cuban workforce now is employed in the private sector, Flake continued, not earning just $25 a month but rather up to "$50 a day if you're a waiter in a Cuban private restaurant, for example."

"They have a measure of economic and political freedom they didn't have before," said Flake. "That is a good thing. I hope we continue to allow Americans to travel to Cuba."

Many people argue, though, that allowing travel will help benefit Raul Castro's regime, and not the people of Cuba, but Flake disagrees.

"There is no doubt that the government benefits when people travel to Cuba," said Flake. "There is no way to keep all money in the hands of private business, but like I said, about a quarter of the Cuban workforce is now in the private sector, running bed and breakfasts, private taxicabs, private restaurants, beauty salons, body shops, you name it.

"And a good chunk of that money goes to the Cuban people and they have more freedom than they had before. That is a good thing."

Flake told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program earlier on Monday that he believes the Castros, over the years, have used U.S. policy as a "convenient scapegoat for the failures of socialism," and Trump in the past has said it was right to open up Cuba.

"I hope that he sticks with that," said Flake. "The biggest change that's happened in Cuba over the past decade is allowing Cuban-Americans to travel back to Cuba and to remit about as much money as they want. That's acted as seed capital for private entrepreneurs in Cuba."

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Fifty years of Fidel Castro's hold over Cuba led to the isolation and repressed freedoms of its people, and to close off relations with the Island nation could mean more of the same, Sen. Jeff Flake...
jeff flake, cuba, open, castro, death
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2016-54-28
Monday, 28 November 2016 01:54 PM
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