Partial text of the Address by Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, at the American Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C., January 11, 2001.
And while democracy has finally taken root across the border in Mexico, just ninety miles from our shores the hemisphere's last totalitarian dictatorship still sputters on. Like a cat with nine lives, Fidel Castro is about to survive his ninth U.S. president. Well I have a message for Mr. Castro: the last of the cat's nine lives has begun.
Fidel Castro survived the Clinton years for one reason: the Clinton Administration never made Castro's removal from power a goal of its foreign policy. Embargo opponents correctly sensed that the Clinton people were never really committed to Castro's isolation and removal, and the Administration did nothing to dissuade them of that notion. So they pushed on, dominating the debate. As a result, instead of focusing on developing strategies to undermine Castro and hasten his demise, the last several years in Washington were spent wasting precious time and energy on a senseless debate over whether to lift the Cuban embargo unilaterally.
With the Bush election, the opponents of the Cuban embargo are about to run into a brick wall on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. President Bush is a committed supporter of the embargo. Cuban-Americans recognized the real thing when they saw it, and they turned out in record numbers to support him in Florida - giving Mr. Bush the margin that secured Florida's 25 electoral votes and the White House.
What this means is that, with the embargo finally off the table, the new Bush Administration has a golden opportunity to develop a new Cuba policy. The model for such a new Cuba policy should be the successful
In the 1980s, the U.S. hastened Poland's democratic transformation by isolating the communist regime in Warsaw, while at the same time actively lifting the isolation of the Polish people - supporting the democratic opposition and cultivating an emerging civil society with financial and other means of support.
We must now do the same thing in Cuba. In 1998, I introduced legislation - the "Cuban Solidarity Act" - which proposed, among other measures, giving $100 million in U.S. government humanitarian aid to the Cuban people (to be delivered, not through the Cuban government, but through private charitable institutions functioning on the island). Such private assistance will help give Cubans independence from the State, which now controls their lives by controlling their access to food, medicine and other daily necessities.
Come January 20, I intend to work with the Bush Administration to do for the people of Cuba what the United States did for the people of Poland twenty years ago. And I will make a prediction here today: Before his term is up, President Bush will visit Havana - to attend the inauguration of the new democratically elected President of Cuba.