Hillary Clinton on Friday called on Congress to lift the decades-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba and blasted her Republican opponents for viewing the island nation through "an outdated Cold War lens" in a speech outlining the importance of American engagement in Latin America.
“We have arrived at a decisive moment. The Cuban people have waited long enough for progress to come. Even many Republicans on Capitol Hill are starting to recognize the urgency of moving forward. It’s time for their leaders to either get on board or get out of the way,” Clinton said in a speech at Florida International University in Miami.
“The Cuba embargo needs to go once and for all,” she said.
Clinton voiced support for President Barack Obama’s efforts to engage Cuba, though prospects of lifting the embargo look bleak under a Republican-led Congress that firmly opposes the White House effort. But the former secretary of state pledged, if elected, to take executive actions to promote American business interests in Cuba and advance human rights, even if Congress does not act.
"I understand the skepticism...But you've been promised progress for 50 years. We can't wait any longer for a failed policy to bear fruit,” she said.
Clinton said the embargo, which has been in place since 1962, has only emboldened the Castro regime.
“Most of Republican candidates running for president would play right into the hardliners hands. They would reverse the progress we have made,” she said.
Clinton delivered the speech in the backyard of two 2016 candidates who have been outspoken in the opposition of lifting the embargo Florida Republicans Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. Rubio, whose parents hailed from Cuba, taught at Florida International University before his presidential run and Bush’s campaign is based in Miami, a city that boosts a heavy Cuban population.
“President Obama and Secretary Clinton must learn that appeasement only emboldens dictators and repressive governments, and weakens America's global standing in the 21st century,” Rubio said in a statement ahead of Clinton's speech.
“It’s insulting to many residents of Miami for Hillary Clinton to come here to endorse a retreat in the struggle for democracy in Cuba. This city has become a home and a refuge to thousands and thousands of Castro’s victims. Secretary Clinton’s call to abandon the embargo – and the principles of democracy and freedom for the Cuban people – in exchange for nothing in return from the regime in Havana adds insult to the pain they and their families feel,” Bush said in a statement.
U.S.-Cuba relations have been a dominant issue in the key presidential battleground state of Florida for decades, with politicians from both parties generally supporting the pro-embargo stance advocated for by generations of Cuban-Americans who opposed the Castro regime.
But younger Cuban-Americans have shown more willingness to engage in recent years, as has the country as a whole. At Pew poll conducted this month found 72 percent of Americans are in favor of lifting the embargo, including 59 percent of Republicans.
Clinton has said she urged President Obama to re-establish diplomatic ties with the island nation during her time at the State Department. The president announced last December he would begin the process of restoring relations with Cuba, and the country reopened its embassy in Washington, D.C., two weeks ago.
Cuba is the latest in a growing list of issues the Democratic presidential frontrunner is using to paint Republicans as out of touch. Earlier this week slammed the entire GOP field for their unwillingness to acknowledge the issue of climate change.
“Fundamentally, most of the Republican candidates still view Cuba, and Latin America more broadly, through an outdated Cold War lens,” Clinton said.
“For them ideology trumps evidence, and so they remain incapable of moving us forward,” she added.