Former Secretary of State and likely future presidential candidate Hillary Clinton came out in support of President Barack Obama’s new policy on Cuba Wednesday evening, saying she has long believed the best way to help Cuba is to expose the country more to the outside world.
“I am deeply relieved by Alan Gross's safe return to the United States and I support President Obama’s decision to change course on Cuba policy,” she said in a statement. “Despite good intentions, our decades-long policy of isolation has only strengthened the Castro regime's grip on power.”
As Obama’s secretary of state, Clinton worked to free Gross, the American aid contractor held in Cuba on espionage charges since 2009, and pushed a new approach to the island nation.
“Near the end of my tenure I recommended to President Obama that he take another look at our embargo,” Clinton wrote in her recent book “Hard Choices.” “It wasn’t achieving its goals and it was holding back our broader agenda across Latin America.”
This summer, while appearing at the Council on Foreign Relations, Clinton went even further. “I think we should advocate for the end of the embargo. We should advocate for normalizing relations and see what they do,” she said. She called the embargo the Castros "best friend,” explaining that the regime can use the blockade as an “excuse” for all their problems.
Since stepping down as secretary of state, Clinton has rarely issued statements or spoken out on news of the day in real time. She chooses carefully which issues to weigh in on, and usually does so only on her own terms -- generally pre-scheduled speeches where she’ll add a few comments to her prepared remarks.
That has occasionally earned her criticism. A few hours before her comments, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a key Republican foreign policy hawk, tweeted, “Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on normalizing relations with Cuba? #DeafeningSilence.” His fellow Republican senator Ted Cruz, who is actively considering a presidential run, said the new Cuba policy is a symptom of "Obama-Clinton-Kerry foreign policy” and will be remembered as a "mistake."
But in Wednesday’s statement, Clinton sought to show that advocated for this kind of change.
“As I have said, the best way to bring change to Cuba is to expose its people to the values, information, and material comforts of the outside world,” she said. “The goal of increased U.S. engagement in the days and years ahead should be to encourage real and lasting reforms for the Cuban people. And the other nations of the Americas should join us in this effort.”