Hillary Clinton will call for lifting the trade embargo on Cuba Friday in a speech in the backyard of two pro-embargo Republican presidential candidates.
In a speech at Florida International University in Miami, Clinton will call on Congress to lift the 50-year-old embargo on the island nation, and attack Republican arguments in favor of the blockade failed policies of the past, her campaign said Wednesday.
The former secretary of state wrote in her 2014 memoir “Hard Choices.” that she doubted the efficacy of the embargo and pushed the Obama administration to move towards détente with the regime. “Near the end of my tenure I recommended to President Obama that he take another look at our embargo,” Clinton wrote. “It wasn’t achieving its goals and it was holding back our broader agenda across Latin America.”
In an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations last year, 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 “best friend” of the Fidel and Raul Castro, who have ruled the country for decades, saying the regime can use the blockade as an “excuse” for all their problems.
But with her speech Friday, Clinton is clearly aiming draw a contrast with Republicans and perhaps even taunt them into responding.
Florida International University, where she will give the speech, happens to the school where GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio teaches political science part time. And both he and Republican frontrunner Jeb Bush hail from Miami, which has a large Cuban population.
If Clinton was hoping to provoke a response, she succeeded.
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"After Secretary Clinton's failed 'reset' with Putin, now she wants to do a 'reset' with Castro. She is making another grave mistake,” Rubio said in a statement from his campaign. “I will stand with the Cuban people and only support an end to the embargo that is accompanied by real democratic reform."
A spokesperson for Bush, meanwhile, said Clinton was just letting politically expediency determine her policies. “Hillary Clinton and President Obama claim that our Cuba policy is a relic of history, but it’s the Castro regime that is stuck in the cold war,” said spokesperson Emily Benavides.
The Cuba embargo was once seen as untouchable, especially in Florida. But public opinion has moved on it in recent years. Nearly three quarters of Americans now support lifting the embargo, including 59% of Republicans, according to Pew.