Cuba Libre

“I candidly confess,” said Thomas Jefferson, expressing a revolutionary American vision for people living in the Caribbean region to improve the United States, “that I have ever looked on Cuba as the most interesting addition which could ever be made to our system of States [1].”

Five months earlier, on May 27, 1823, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams revealed his own feelings about the region while helping to develop an historic doctrine that President James Monroe would announce the following December for the unalienable rights of people who were previously fellow colonists in the New World. “They will serve to mark the boundaries of the rights which we may justly claim in our future relations with them [2].”  As president, Adams expressed hesitation in applying the Monroe Doctrine, citing advice from President George Washington’s Farewell Address [3].

“Permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachments for others should be excluded,” said Washington, who in the Address’s introduction also shared his ultimate wish for the U.S. Constitution, “that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete, by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation [4].”

Recent hesitation by the Obama administration in forming a comprehensive policy toward Cuba might help to explain why Americans might make Barack Obama a one-term president like Adams, with voters overwhelmingly disapproving of Obama’s leadership in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll [5].

“I remain committed to supporting the simple desire of the Cuban people to freely determine their future and to enjoy the rights and freedoms that define the Americas,” Obama said in March, making implicit reference to the ideals of the Monroe Doctrine.

But as shown in two unrelated articles published in yesterday’s edition of The New York Times, one chronicling dissident Cuban prisoners able to win release and the other on Texas farmers who want to export their goods to Cuba, people want Obama to start influencing action that matches his rhetoric [6].

With dictators like Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez also reported to be gaining influence in the Caribbean, the American president is long-overdue with recommending a more perfect union to Congress [7].


[1] Merrill D. Peterson, ed., The Portable Thomas Jefferson (New York: Viking Press, 1975), 575.

[2] Adrienne Koch and William Peden, eds., The Selected Writings of John Quincy Adams (New York: Knopf, 1946), 345-352.  Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy, An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), xi.

[3] Walter LaFeber, ed., John Quincy Adams and American Continental Empire: Letters, Papers, and Speeches (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1965), 135.

[4] John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, 39 vols. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1932), 35:214-238.

[5] Charles C. Euchner, “Chronology of Presidential Elections,” in Congressional Quarterly’s Guide to the Presidency, Second Edition, ed. Michael Nelson (Washington: Congressional Quarterly, 1996), 340.  Barack Obama, “Statement by the President on the Human Rights Situation in Cuba,” The White House,  Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, “Hearing on U.S.-Cuba Policy,” U.S. House of Representatives,  Dan Balz and Jon Cohen, The Washington Post, “Poll: Confidence in Obama Falls to New Low,” The Courier-Journal, July 13, 2010, Nation.

[6] Raphael Minder, “Freed Cubans Land in Spain and Say Fight Will Go On,” The New York Times, July 14, 2010, International.  Yeganeh June Torbati, “Farm Groups Push Congress to Ease Exports to Cuba,” The New York Times, July 14, 2010, National.

[7] Marc Lacey, “Both Frail and Feisty, Fidel Castro goes on TV,” The New York Times, July 13, 2010, International.  Simon Romero, “Curacao Faces Friction with Chavez over U.S. Planes,” The New York Times, July 12, 2010, International.  Christopher J. Bosso, “Legislative Leader,” in Congressional Quarterly’s Guide to the Presidency, 551.


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