U.S. Senator Ron Wyden issued the following statement praising President Obama’s announcement of new steps to open up relations with the Cuban people:
“I applaud the President for today’s announcement and for taking these historic steps to normalize relations with Cuba. I have long believed that trade and engagement are liberalizing forces and I look forward to working with my colleagues and with our diplomats to bring about the progress in Cuba that we all want to see. I am also pleased to hear that imprisoned American citizen Alan Gross has been allowed to return to the United States, and that the U.S. and Cuba have separately agreed to an exchange of captured intelligence agents.
For more than a half-century, the United States has sought to isolate Cuba diplomatically and economically and bring down the Castro regime. By any metric, that policy has failed. At some point, policy makers must put aside personal ideology, look at the historical record, and reassess. In my judgment, that point is now.
There are some who will say that these steps do nothing but prop up a regime that cracks down on critics. And I want to be clear that I continue to have grave concerns about the repression of pro-democracy advocates in Cuba. One need look no further than the State Department’s most recent Human Rights Report to read about the Cuban government’s arbitrary arrests, selective prosecution, and use of violence, intimidation and detention “to prevent free expression and peaceful assembly.” When I visited Cuba nine years ago I saw the effects of this repression firsthand.
But I also reject the cynical argument that America can only bring about positive change in Cuba by continued unilateral attempts to ostracize the country. And I reject the idea that I must choose between normalizing relations with Cuba on the one hand and continuing my support for freedom of thought, conscience, and expression on the other. I think history has shown that to be a false choice. My hope is normalizing diplomatic ties will put more focus on improving human rights in Cuba and better protecting the environment in the Gulf of Mexico.
In light of today’s developments, I am requesting that the International Trade Commission initiate a study of the economic impact on the United States of current U.S. restrictions on exports of goods and services as well as travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens. This study will provide a foundation for reevaluating the current U.S. economic relationship with Cuba.
At a time when so many Americans are just getting by, we also cannot ignore the trade opportunities currently denied to American farmers, manufacturers, and service providers. U.S. trade restrictions must be appropriately calibrated to ensure that we do not unnecessarily leave American jobs on the table. I look forward to working with the President to open up trade with the Cuban people.