US presidential candidates weigh in on Castro's resignation

Other News Materials 20 February 2008 02:09 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa )- The three main US presidential candidates who have been sparring on the campaign trail struck a chord of agreement on Tuesday by calling for democratic change in Cuba following Fidel Castro's announcement that he was resigning.

Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, along with presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, said the United States should be willing to move toward better relations with Cuba if leaders on the communist island introduced democratic reforms that will lead to elections.

" America can and should help hasten the sparking of freedom in Cuba," McCain said. "The Cuban people have waited long enough."

The three candidates said the 81-year-old Castro's departure alone will not be enough to bring change to Cuba.

"Today should mark the end of a dark era in Cuba's history," Obama said. "Fidel Castro's stepping down is an essential first step, but it is sadly insufficient in bringing freedom to Cuba."

Clinton said the United States will continue to stand on the side of the Cuban people and against the rule of the Castro regime.

"The United States must pursue an active policy that does everything possible to advance the cause of freedom, democracy and opportunity in Cuba," Clinton said.

The candidates' remarks were similar to President George W Bush's approach to Cuba. Bush said US policy toward Cuba will not change until the island begins a democratic transition.

Obama and Clinton remain in a tight contest to win the Democratic nomination, while McCain appears to have the Republican race locked up ahead of the November 4 presidential elections.

Cuba can play a significant role in American politics, especially in Florida, one the most populous states in the country that includes a large Cuban-American community that backs a tough policy toward Havana.