Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States needed to deepen its ties with Cuba if it truly wanted to help the Cuban people and advance U.S. interests.
In an exit memo addressed to President Barack Obama but likely directed at the next administration, Kerry called for lifting the trade embargo against Cuba and continuing Obama’s outreach toward the island nation, instead of reversing it as President-elect Donald Trump has threatened.
“Our new relationship with Cuba has also removed an irritant in our relationships throughout the Western Hemisphere,” Kerry wrote.
The 21-page memo summarizes several of what the administration sees as its high points and argues for continuing several foreign policy initiatives attacked by Trump.
The Obama administration, for example, has been working hard to protect what it considers one of its most ambitious foreign policy initiatives: ending more than 50 years of hostility with Cuba.
Since Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced plans to restore ties on Dec. 17, 2014, the countries’ embassies have been reopened and restrictions have been lifted on trade and travel. In March, Obama became the first U.S. president to visit Havana in 88 years.
Trump has vowed to reverse Obama’s outreach unless the communist government frees political prisoners and restores religious and political freedoms.
The White House has warned Trump against carrying out the threats. Kerry said doing so would hurt the Cuban people and damage U.S. standing in the region.
U.S. policy toward Cuba has long been a source a tension between the U.S. and other Latin American nations. Kerry said removing the issue had strengthened ties and opened opportunities for the United States to work on important initiatives, including the Colombia peace deal.