Hillary Clinton to call on Congress to lift Cuban embargo

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Story highlights

  • The embargo was imposed in 1962 and signed into law by President John F. Kennedy
  • The Miami speech also sets up a contrast between Clinton and two Florida Republicans, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio

Washington (CNN)Hillary Clinton will call on Congress to lift its longtime trade embargo against Cuba, her campaign said Wednesday.

Clinton, the Democratic presidential frontrunner, will make her case Friday in a speech in Miami, four weeks after President Barack Obama called on Congress to do the same.
The embargo, which was imposed in 1962 and signed into law by President John F. Kennedy, keeps American companies from doing business in Cuba and prohibits most Americans from traveling directly to the island nation or spending money as tourists.
    Previewing Clinton's speech at Florida International University, her campaign said she "will highlight that Republican arguments against increased engagement are part of failed policies of the past and contend that we must look to the future in order to advance a core set of values and interests to engage with Cubans and address human rights abuses."
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    The United States has increasingly deepened its economic ties to Cuba since December, when American contractor Alan Gross was released from a Cuban prison as part of a deal designed to ease long-simmering tensions that date back to the Cold War.
    "We don't have to be imprisoned by the past," the President said July 1, during a White House announcement of the new U.S. embassy. "Americans and Cubans alike are looking to move forward. I believe it's time for Congress to do the same."
    The Miami speech also sets up a contrast between Clinton and two Florida Republicans, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio, who Democrats view as strong contenders for the GOP nomination.
    Both Bush and Rubio -- as well as the rest of the GOP presidential field -- have opposed Obama's calls for the decades-old trade embargo to be lifted, and criticized his move to open a U.S. embassy in Havana.
    Bush spokeswoman Emily Benavides said Wednesday that Clinton's stance conflicts with positions she took in previous campaigns.
    "Hillary Clinton was adamantly against easing restrictions with Cuba in 2000 and 2008, going so far as to confirm she would not meet with Raul Castro until there was evidence of political change," she said. "There has been no change -- and this is just another example of Hillary Clinton putting political expediency ahead of doing what's right."
    And Bush criticized Obama this week in a Spanish-language interview with Telemundo, saying he is "totally against his politics, recognizing the Castro brothers without getting anything in return."
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    "I believe that the policy should be that we always want freedom in Cuba, we want democracy to change the relationship, but based on facts. In this case, there aren't even promises that he's received to do this. And dictators are not going to leave quietly at night, they don't leave. We must be vigilant and this president does not recognize that," Bush said.
    For his part, Rubio lambasted Obama in a New York Times op-ed earlier this month.
    "Our extensive experience with transitions from Communism has shown that economic opening and diplomatic engagement do not automatically lead to political freedom," Rubio wrote. "No Communist police state has ever unclenched its fist just because a McDonald's has opened or an embassy has been established."