Saturday, September 08, 2007

Dodd would end Cuba embargo, lift travel restrictions if elected

International Herald Tribune

CORAL GABLES, Florida: Democrat Christopher Dodd pledged Saturday that as president he would end a decades-old trade embargo with Cuba and lift travel restrictions to the communist island.

The Connecticut senator also said he would open an embassy in Havana and shut down the 17-year-old TV Marti, a U.S. government-run television station that broadcasts to Cuba.

"Other than the war in Iraq, no other American policy is more broadly unpopular internationally," Dodd said of the United States' policy toward Cuba.

Dodd said as president he would seek a repeal of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which strengthened the U.S. embargo against Cuba. He also said taxpayers should not spend money on Radio Marti, a companion to the television station, that virtually no one in Cuba sees.

The senator, who badly trails better known rivals in the presidential race, said he would work to establish U.S. mail service to Cuba. He added he would make staying in touch with family on the island easier for Cuban-Americans, by allowing U.S. companies to lower prices for phone calls there.

Dodd answered several questions in the Spanish that he had honed while once serving in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. He said he has faith in the Cuban community, and in their willingness to take a look at his policy, though Cuban-Americans generally oppose any lifting of the trade embargo.

Dodd sidestepped a question on whether he would meet leaders like Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez if elected.

"Presidents don't run around and meet with people automatically," Dodd said, without directly answering the question.

Meeting with leaders without preconditions is an issue Dodd's fellow Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have sparred over. Dodd he said of his opponents' answers: "One was far too rigid and one was far too simplistic."

Dodd was in Florida to participate in a debate for Democratic candidates that was to be hosted in Spanish and held on Sunday at the University of Miami. Because only Dodd and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson are fluent in Spanish, questions will be translated into English for the candidates. Candidates are then only allowed to answer in English.

Dodd joked it is a shame the debate won't be entirely in Spanish.

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JG: Three of the Democratic Party's Presidential candidates, Obama, Dodd and Kucinich wold reform our failed policies toward Cuba. A step in the right direction! We will accomplish more with honey than with vinegar.

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