On or before January 20 Rex Tillerson provided written responses to questions from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that is considering his nomination to be Secretary of State. Here we will look at those responses regarding U.S. policies regarding Cuba.
Tillerson’s Responses Regarding Cuba
Many of his responses were “Yes, if I am confirmed” and are not understandable without the question. The following are his responses regarding U.S. policies regarding Cuba [with portions of the questions inserted in brackets to make the answers more understandable]:
- “If confirmed, I will engage with Cuba but continue to press for reform of its oppressive regime. I will support human rights defenders and democracy activists in Cuba, empower civil society, defend freedom of expression, and promote improved Internet access and I will ask our allies to do the same.”
- “Yes, if I am confirmed, [I will continue to support programs that promote democratic voices and initiatives in Cuba like Radio and TV Marti].”
- “If confirmed, I will engage bilaterally and multilaterally to bring these fugitives [like New Jersey cop-killer Joanne Chesimard] to justice.”
- “Yes, if I am confirmed, [I work with the Treasury Department to ensure that no revenue from American businesses goes directly toward supporting the Cuban military and the regime].”
- “If confirmed, I will press Cuba to meet its pledge to become more democratic and consider placing conditions on trade or travel policies to motivate the release of political prisoners.”
- “I will work bilaterally and multilaterally to identify training and technical assistance opportunities to assist with judicial reform, if I am confirmed.”
- “Yes, [I will stand by President-elect Trump’s commitment to reverse the Obama Administration’s Cuba regulations until freedoms are restored on the island]. There will be a comprehensive review of current policies and executive orders regarding Cuba to determine how best to pressure Cuba to respect human rights and promote democratic changes.”
- “Yes, [I will stand by Vice President-Elect Pence’s commitment to reverse the Obama Administration’s Cuba regulations].”
Perhaps not too surprisingly, these responses do not add much clarity on the new administration’s policies regarding Cuba. As he said in his live testimony to the Committee and in these written responses, there are hints that the new administration will change at least some aspects of the Obama Administration’s policies to normalize relations with Cuba. But first there will be “a comprehensive review of current policies and executive orders regarding Cuba to determine how best to pressure Cuba to respect human rights and promote democratic changes.”
Those of us who support normalization need to be on guard and register our objections to any proposed retreat from that important, positive development for the U.S. and Cuba and indeed all of Latin America.
 Secretary-of-State-designate Rex Tillerson’s confirmation answers on Latin America, Latin America Goes Global (Jan. 20, 2017)