Statements on Cuba during the Kerry, Meade and Baird Q&A

STATEMENTS ON CUBA DURING Q&A SEGMENT

(from official State Department transcript)

Canadian Foreign Minister Baird:

We want to acknowledge the truly historic change in American policy with respect to Cuba. We are a country who believes that the more Americans, American values, American capitalism that permeates Cuba, the freer the Cuban people will be. And not only was it about time, but it actually was at the perfect time that this important reform and this change in policy was made. […]

With respect to Cuba, we strongly support the Administration’s change in policy. We think it’s, again, the right policy at, frankly, exactly the right time. And John [Kerry] has said privately and publicly – and Canada would certainly repeat this – the importance that liberal democratic governments stand up for human rights and the rule of law, democracy, and that includes Cuba. And we certainly will continue to advocate those and we’re certainly pleased to join any American effort at the Summit of the Americas or elsewhere.

Secretary of State Kerry:

With respect to Cuba, we did indeed discuss Cuba. Everybody here has an enormous interest in hemispheric relations, obviously. As President Obama said, if you’ve been trying something for 50 years and it isn’t working, let’s try something new. And so that’s what we’re doing with a clear commitment in our policy that this is an effort, we believe, that offers the best opportunity for the people of Cuba, ultimately, to improve their lives and to take part in the choices about their lives.

We will continue to talk about the importance of civil society, the importance of human rights protections, the importance of democracy, and that will be part of the topic that takes place when we go to the Summit of the Americas.

But we look forward to completing the process. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, who is here, had meetings in Cuba, I think about 10 days, two weeks ago now. And we will have another meeting to follow up on that before anything else takes place, and then we’ll determine what the diplomatic schedule will be based on those initial meetings. But our hope is to be able to move forward effectively and as soon as is practicable. […]

Mexico is very supportive of this policy, as is Canada, as are, I think, almost every nation in Central or Latin America, maybe with the exception of one that isn’t happy if we start to build relationships with others in the region.

But I think it’s fair to say that Mexico is a very important interlocutor because we work so closely together. And only recently Mexico has had conversations with counterparts in Cuba regarding this process. I think it’s fair to say that Mexico can be very helpful and important going forward in explaining what we are trying to do and not doing, and helping to make the process run smoothly and effectively.

And I think the more Mexico can state its interests, which it does have, it is better for Latin America if the United States and Cuba can find a way forward to reduce tensions and not be dividing nations. It allows all of us to focus on the principal challenges of the region, which are dealing with poverty, helping Central America as we have seen recently in the billion dollar plan that President Obama has put together to help lift people out of violence and poverty and so forth. Mexico is key to that because it is a partner economically and because it is a leader in the region.

So we will be proceeding forward very closely with our neighbors, with Canada, with Mexico in this effort. They are strong allies and wanting this policy to be implemented effectively, and they will continue to be helpful in their communications with the government officials of Cuba.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Meade:

Just briefly on Cuba as well, that for Mexico is a huge issue. The U.S. and Cuba are physically neighbors, so it’s not just hemispheric in nature; it really is a dialogue that opens up between neighboring countries. And speaking from Mexico and from Latin America, we think that the policy change is very, very welcome. We think that the fact that the U.S. and Cuba are engaged in dialogue would be positive for the advancement of Cuba, the advancement of the region.

And I can just again reiterate that that was most welcome by the Latin American community. We thought it was a very good decision. We thought it was a very brave decision. Mexico always thinks that it is better to talk with countries and talk about countries, and we’re very sure that this very positive engagement will result in the betterment of the quality of the debate within the hemisphere and the possibilities of the neighborhood. So we think it was very positive, and it has been – it has received rave reviews in the case of Mexico and Latin America.

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