May 20, 2015

Corker Opening Statement at Hearing on “U.S.-Cuban Relations - The Way Forward”

United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Hearing: “U.S. Cuban Relations - The Way Forward”
Wednesday, May 20, 2015 

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Chairman
Opening Statement

Today we will hear from the State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs on the strategy behind the President’s significant shift in U.S. policy towards Cuba. Assistant Secretary Jacobson is joined at the witness table by the Counselor of the State Department, Ambassador Thomas Shannon. We welcome you both.

Cuba has been left behind politically and economically; a far cry from a time decades ago when it was among the most prosperous countries in the region.

The administration’s Cuba policy initiative has been welcomed in Latin America and the Caribbean. But significant differences of opinion exist in the United States over the extent to which this change in policy will advance U.S. interests and improve circumstances for the Cuban people.

Today, we will look to our witnesses to speak to how our nation can best engage strategically with the region and beyond to help Cuba rejoin the mainstream of the Americas and offer its citizens the same rights and freedoms enjoyed by citizens of other countries in the region.

To this end, our witnesses can help us understand the administration’s policy goals with regard to Cuba—what do they intend to achieve in restoring full diplomatic relations and relaxing sanctions? We also would like their assessment of what the Cuban government’s goals are for engaging in this diplomatic process with the United States.

Every policy initiative will inevitably come into contact with the reality that the Cuban state and, most importantly, the Cuban state’s relationship with its own citizens, have not yet changed. In truth, we will have to define what a normal relationship with Cuba looks like bilaterally, but also in the context of our relationship with the Americas more broadly.

Our overall relations with Latin America and the Caribbean have evolved significantly over the past decades. The last unilateral U.S. military intervention in the region occurred more than twenty years ago in Haiti. U.S. trade with Latin America and the Caribbean more than doubled from 2000 to 2012.

In the process of opening to increased trade with the United States and each other, Latin American countries have taken steps to adopt market reforms and create more transparent legal and investment standards. The norm in the region is for regular multi-party elections and, more broadly, inter-American institutions today reflect the commitment made by the region to more democratic and inclusive government. The U.S. relationship with Latin America is very different than it was during the Spanish-American War in 1898 or during the Cold War in 1959. 

This is the larger strategic context in which the way forward for our relations with Cuba will be defined.

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For full details on the hearing and archive footage, visit: https://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/052015a.