Pols, business leaders back Obama's Cuba push

Washington (CNN)A bipartisan group of politicians, business leaders and former government officials sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Monday, applauding his decision to pursue normalized relations with Cuba.

"Our new posture of engagement will advance our national interests and our values by empowering the Cuban people's capacity to work toward a more democratic and prosperous country, conditions that are very much in the U.S. interests," the author writes.
The letter, subsequently forwarded to reporters by the State Department, demonstrates how reaction to the policy change is doesn't necessarily cut along political lines.
Its signatories include George Schultz, who served as Secretary of State in the Reagan administration, and Cuban-American business leaders such as former president of Dow Chemicals Enrique Sosa, and sugar tycoons Alfonso and Andres Fanjul.
    They are joined by a host of former Obama administration officials and Democratic policy makers.
    "We may disagree on a number of issues," the authors concede, "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."
    On Dec.17, Obama announced that his administration would be undertaking sweeping reform to the long-standing policy of closed-relations with Cuba, reopening diplomatic missions and loosening travel and trade restriction.
    Last week, the administration announced the first specific changes, which included the abolishing of a regulation requiring Americans to obtain a license from the Treasury Department to travel to Cuba.
    These announcements followed a 2009 decision by the Obama administration to allow Cuban-Americans to visit relatives on the island and send them remittances.
    The letter's authors highlight the successes of the 2009 reforms, and further congratulate the administration on securing the release of jailed American contractor Alan Gross, calling it "an indisputable testament to the power of principled diplomatic engagement."
    The letter echoes many of the administration's own selling points for the new policy, including the belief that more engagement can lead to the spread of democratic ideals in Cuba.
    "Your clear support for facilitating people-to-people engagement affirms the enduring belief that the American people are the best ambassadors of our values," the authors tell the president.
    But while those who penned the letter are united in their support, the policy change has been met by harsh criticism by some in Congress.
    Notably, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, slammed the policy shift, calling Obama "willfully ignorant" on Cuba.
    Rubio is also vowing to prevent legislative changes to the U.S.-Cuban relationship, which could become an issue for the administration if it seeks to lift the decades-old trade embargo between the two countries.
    The letter's authors make note of this potential challenge.
    "Mr. President," they write, "we also call on you to work with Congress to update the legislative framework with regard to Cuba so that it, too, reflects 21st century realities."