Jeff Flake: Obama "Was Right To Begin the Process of Normalizing Relations with Cuba"

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Many congressional Republicans were quick to condemn the Obama administration’s move to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba and push to end the half-century of economic sanctions imposed on the tiny communist island. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, for example, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Obama’s announcement “giving the Castro regime diplomatic legitimacy and access to American dollars isn’t just bad for the oppressed Cuban people, or for the millions who live in exile and lost everything at the hands of the dictatorship. Mr. Obama’s new Cuba policy is a victory for oppressive governments the world over and will have real, negative consequences for the American people.”

And Arizona Sen. John McCain, in a joint statement with his pal Lindsey Graham, said the move was "about the appeasement of autocratic dictators, thugs, and adversaries, diminishing America’s influence in the world."

“We agree with President Obama that he is writing new chapters in American foreign policy," the two senators said in a joint statement. "Unfortunately, today’s chapter, like the others before it, is one of America and the values we stand for in retreat and decline."

But Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who has long argued for better relations with Cuba, supported Obama’s decision.

“I don't often agree with President Obama, but he was right to begin the process of normalizing relations with Cuba,” Flake said in a prepared statement. “For over 50 years, the policy of isolating Cuba has failed to achieve any democratic reforms. It has, however, succeeded in giving the Castros a convenient excuse for the failures of socialism.”

Flake added that the decision was “about freedom. Engagement isn't going to turn Cuba into a model democracy overnight, but as we've seen around the world, it will certainly be an improvement over the status quo. Government control over the island will be lessened by increased American contact and commerce, and these changes will provide a boost to those who will actually make change in Cuba—the Cubans themselves.”

Speaking of Cuba: Tucson author Tom Miller this week found his book, Trading with the Enemy: A Yankee Travels Through Casto’s Cuba, named as one of the best books on Cuba by The New York Times and the Daily Beast.

“Miller’s fun and engaging story of his eight months on the island introduces readers to the country’s intellectual elite, criminals, and ordinary citizens,” wrote William O’Connor on the Beast website. “National jokes about Castro, food, and the embargo are shared as he tells the story of the people on receiving end of the U.S. and Cuba’s policies. It also focuses on some of the nation’s success, such as its health care.”

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