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A changing of the guard is coming in Cuba and relations with that country will soon play a more important role in the United States’ foreign policy, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said Monday at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum.
Gutierrez, who fled Cuba with his family as a boy in 1960, defended the United States’ longstanding policy of isolating the Caribbean state. He argued that the embargo has prevented the regime of Fidel Castro from pursuing its policy of anti-Americanism.
“What the embargo has accomplished, it has denied a sworn enemy of our country more resources that he could use against us,” said Gutierrez.
Several audience members pressed Gutierrez on aspects of the U.S. embargo, such as the limits placed on travel to Cuba. Gutierrez acknowledged the pain this caused for many Cubans living in the United States who are separated from their families, but said the policy’s aims are worth it.
“I think we’re all sacrificing, we’re all sacrificing for the day when Cuba will change,” he said. “We need to do everything we can to not make it easy for them to stay in power, while helping the Cuban people. It’s a balance and we try to strike it as much as we can.”
Gutierrez urged audience members to become more involved, citing the need to improve Cubans’ access to information from the outside world, as well as their ability to communicate with each other.
But he said he believed change was unlikely to happen with Fidel Castro.
“I don’t believe that he will allow anyone to change their fundamental policy, which is: We are the anti-Americans,” he said. “It is very difficult changing anything – anything – while he is still alive and calling the shots.”
U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez spoke Monday at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum. Photo credit: Martha Stewart
“I think we’re all sacrificing, we’re all sacrificing for the day when Cuba will change,” Gutierrez said. “We need to do everything we can to not make it easy for them to stay in power, while helping the Cuban people."
Carlos Gutierrez. Photo credit: Martha Stewart