Susan Crabtree | Washington Examiner | January 20, 2015
Anticipating strong GOP opposition during President Obama’s State of the Union Tuesday night, the State Department circulated a letter signed by 78 prominent newsmakers and government officials touting the benefits of normalizing relations with Cuba.
The State Department released the letter late Monday night after news broke that several Republicans, including Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had invited top Cuban dissidents as their guests to the speech.
Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State John Kerry, said several officials in GOP administrations had signed the letter, such as Secretary of State George Schultz, along with well-known Cuban-American Alfonso Fanjul.
The coalition expressed the view that our new policy will empower “the Cuban people’s capacity to work toward a more democratic and prosperous country — conditions that are very much in the U.S. interests.”
“We may disagree on a number of issues, but we’ve found common ground for a simple reason; our fifty-four-year-old approach intended to promote human rights and democracy in Cuba has failed,” they said in the letter.
They also praised the administration’s efforts to stress the need for human-rights concessions in ongoing talks with Havana and secure the release of several political prisoners, including Alan Gross, who will be a guest of first lady Michelle Obama Tuesday night.
“We are encouraged by your declaration that the U.S. Government will continue to call on Havana to respect the human rights of the Cuban people,” they wrote, noting that a U.N. special rapporteur for torture and the International Red Cross officials will travel to the island.
Other notable signers include: including President Clinton’s National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, political scientist and economist Francis Fukuyama, as well as other notables like former U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, and three former assistant secretaries of State for the Western Hemisphere.