On January 5 Secretary of State John Kerry issued his lengthy “Cabinet Exit Memo” to President Obama. It reviewed his stewardship of American foreign policy over the last four years and defended U.S. efforts to combat climate change, the Iran nuclear deal, the need to confront hostile Russian actions and to welcome refugees and many other specific policies.
U.S. Policies Regarding Cuba
Here is what he said about Cuba near the end of the memo.
“For over fifty years, our efforts to isolate Cuba failed to advance our objective of empowering Cubans to build an open and democratic country. In fact, it was often the United States – not Cuba – that was left isolated by this policy.”
“That’s why President Obama decided it was time for a new approach that would enhance our engagement with the Cuban people and better support their aspirations. Over the last two years, we have reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba, reopened our Embassy in Havana, and advanced engagement efforts on a number of fronts. For the first time in fifty years, we have reestablished direct commercial flights and direct mail flights between the United States and Cuba. We have lifted the restrictions on certain Cuban products, opened doors for cooperation in mutually-beneficial areas such as marine protected areas and health, and facilitated an expansion of authorized travel to Cuba. We continue to support improved human rights and democratic reforms in Cuba and are confident that this new approach will be a more effective way to do so.”
“Going forward, if we want to deepen the connections that bind our nations and our peoples, it is critical for Congress to lift the embargo on Cuba, an outdated burden on the Cuban people that continues to impede U.S. interests. Over time, we believe greater engagement will serve the interests of both the American people and Cuban people, and provide a better foundation for growth and progress in the relationship between our countries.” (Emphasis added.)
“Our new relationship with Cuba has also removed an irritant in our relationships throughout the Western Hemisphere. Throughout this administration, we have worked to advance a Western Hemisphere that is prosperous, secure, democratic, and that plays a greater global role. . . . . And in the years ahead we should continue to forge partnerships throughout the Western Hemisphere rooted in mutual respect and shared values.”
Thank you, Secretary Kerry, for your many efforts to enhance U.S. engagement with the Cuban people and support their aspirations. Now it is up to U.S. citizens to strengthen our defense of those past efforts and to advocate for further engagement and normalization, including ending the U.S. embargo of the island.
 U.S. State Dep’t, Exit Memo from Secretary Kerry to President Obama (Jan. 5, 2017); Morello, Secretary of State John Kerry’s exit memo is filled with policies that Trump could undo, Wash. Post (Jan. 5, 2017).