On May 23, 2008, then-presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) gave a speech at the Cuban-American National Foundation’s annual Cuban Independence Day luncheon where he promised he would not begin to “normalize” relations with Cuba until all political prisoner are released, saying “beginning with with the freeing of all political prisoners, we will take steps to begin normalizing relations.”
According to Human Rights Watch’s “World Report 2014,” the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation reported over 3,600 arbitrary political detentions in 2013.
Obama said, “My policy towards Cuba will be guided by one word, liberty. The road to freedom for all Cubans must begin with justice for Cuba’s political prisoners, the right of free speech, a free press, freedom of assembly, and it must lead to elections that are free and fair. That is my commitment.”
He added, “I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with leverage to present, so do not be confused about this, I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with clear choice. If you take significant steps towards democracy, beginning with with the freeing of all political prisoners, we will take steps to begin normalizing relations. That is the way to bring about real change in Cuba, through strong, smart, principled diplomacy. We cannot keep playing political games on this issue. It is time for us to finally bring about the changes that will release the enormous potential of the people that are currently trapped in Cuba.”
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