Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
University of Louisville
April 9, 2010
QUESTION: Thank you, Senator Clinton. Given the fact that probably the Cuban missile crisis may be the greatest example of a deterrent, that’s been almost 50 years ago. Is there any talk within the Department of maybe normalizing relationships with Cuba?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s a really – that’s a topic of conversation a lot. I don’t think that there is any question that, at some point, the people of Cuba should have democratically elected leaders and should have a chance to chart their own future. But unfortunately, I don’t see that happening while the Castros are still in charge. And so what President Obama has done is to create more space, more family travel, more business opportunities to sell our farm products or for our telecom companies to compete dealing with common issues that we have with Cuba like migration or drug trafficking. In fact, during the height of the terrible catastrophe in Haiti because of the earthquake, we actually helped some of the Cuban doctors get medical supplies who were already operating there.
So there are ways in which we’re trying to enhance our cooperation. But it is my personal belief that the Castros do not want to see an end to the embargo and do not want to see normalization with the United States, because they would then lose all of their excuses for what hasn’t happened in Cuba in the last 50 years. And I find that very sad, because there should be an opportunity for a transition to a full democracy in Cuba. And it’s going to happen at some point, but it may not happen anytime soon.
And just – if you look at any opening to Cuba, you can almost chart how the Castro regime does something to try to stymie it. So back when my husband was president and he was willing to make overtures to Cuba and they were beginning to open some doors, Castro ordered the – his military to shoot down these two little unarmed planes that were dropping pamphlets on Cuba that came from Miami. And just recently, the Cubans arrested an American who was passing out information and helping elderly Cubans communicate through the internet, and they’ve thrown him in jail. And they recently let a Cuban prisoner die from a hunger strike. So it’s a dilemma.
And I think for the first time, because we came in and said, look, we’re willing to talk and we’re willing to open up, and we saw the way the Cubans responded. For the first time, a lot of countries that have done nothing but berate the United States for our failure to be more open to Cuba have now started criticizing Cuba because they’re letting people die. They’re letting these hunger strikers die. They’ve got 200 political prisoners who are there for trivial reasons. And so I think that many in the world are starting to see what we have seen a long time, which is a very intransigent, entrenched regime that has stifled opportunity for the Cuban people, and I hope will begin to change and we’re open to changing with them, but I don’t know that that will happen before some more time goes by (Applause.)