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tv   Andrea Mitchell Reports  MSNBC  December 17, 2014 9:00am-10:01am PST

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kerry's top agenda items. they discussed it, discussed how it would go forward. alan gross's imprisonment was always an impediment. they engaged the vatican, pope francis got personally involved. and i'm joined now be kristin welker from the white house lawn and julius wide on foreign relations. kristin, first, let's talk about the president's involvement in this extraordinary conversation between president obama and raul castro. >> as you point out andrea, it lasted for 45 minutes, extraordinary indeed. officials describing this as the biggest shift in the u.s.-cuban relations in 50 years. president obama and president castro discussing that, finalizing all of the details of this release of alan gross and of the announcement they are going to make today, andrea. among the changes will be an increase and lifting of some
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travel bans. that means that more americans will be able to travel to cuba. they'll have to fall under 12 categories which include family visits, government business, journalism, research, religious activities, what won't be lifted, andrea as travel for tourist activities. that's something that congress would have to approve. president obama also not able to lift the embargo. but the other change that you're going to see in addition to the embassy that will be set up. havana is the fact that people will be able to send more money overseas. right now an individual can send $500, that would be increased it 2,000. there's also improvements between internet connectivity and other telecommunications. so this is an incredible shift in the relations between the united states and cuba, and as you point out, andrea, the vatican was involved. these conversations really started back in the spring of 203. the first -- >> right now kristin, the president is speaking, let's go
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to him. >> relationship with the people of cuba. and the most significant changes in our policy in more than 50 years. we will end an outdated approach that for decades is failed to advance our interests. instead we will begin to normalize our relations between our two countries. through the changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the american and cuban people. and begin a new chapter among the nations of the americas. there's a complicated history between the united states and cuba, i was born in 1961, just over two years after fidel castro took power in cuba and a few months after the bay of pigs invasion which tries to overthrow his regime. over the next several decades, the relationship between our countries played out against the backdrop of the cold war, and america's steadfast opposition to communism. we are separated by just over 90 miles. but year after year, ideological
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and economic barrier hardened between our two countries. meanwhile, the cuban exile community in the united states made enormous contributions to our country. in politics, in business, culture, and sports. like immigrants before, cubans helped remake america, even as they felt a painful yearning for the land and families they left behind. all of this bound america and cuba in a unique relationship. once family and foe. proudly, the united states has supported democracy and human rights in cuba through these five decades. we've done so primarily through policies that aim to isolate the island, preventing the most basic travel and commerce that americans can enjoy any place else. and though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, no other nation joins us in imposing these sanctions and it has had little effect beyond providing the
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cuban government for rationals on its people. today cuba is still governed by the castros and the communist party that came to power half a century ago. neither the american nor cuban people are well served bay rinld policy that's rooted in events that took place before most of us were born. considered that for more than 35 years, we've had relations with china, a far larger country also governed bay communist party. nearly two decades ago, we reestablished relations with vietnam where we fought a with a that are claimed more americans than any cold war confrontation. that's why, when i came into office, i promised to re-examine our cuba policy. as a start, we lifted restrictions for cuban americans to travel instead of it remittances to their families in cuba. these changes, once controversial, now seem obvious. cuban-americans have been reunited with their families. and are the best possible
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ambassadors for our values. and through these exchanges, a younger generation of cuban-americans is increasingly questioned in an approach that does more to keep cuba closed off for an interconnected world. while i've been reprepared to take additional steps for some time, a major obstacle stood in our way. the wrongful imprisonment of alan gross for five years. over many months, my administration has held discussions about alan's case, and other aspects of our relationship. his holiness pope francis issued a personal appeal to me and to cuba's president raul castro, urging us to resolve alan's case and to address cuba's interests in the release of three cuban agents who've been jailed in the united states for over 15 years. today, alan returned home. reunited with his family at long last. alan was released by the cuban
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government on humanitarian grounds. separately, in exchange for the three cuban agents, cuba today released one of the most important intelligence agents that the united states has ever had in cuba. and who has been in prison for nearly two decades. this man who sacrifice has been known to only a few, provided america with the information that allowed us to arrest the network of cuban agents that included the men transferred to cuba today as well as other spies in the united states. this man is now safely on our shores. having recovered these two men who sacrificed for our country, i'm now taking steps to place the interests of the people of both countries at the heart of our policy. first, i've instructed secretary kerr troy immediately begin discussions with cuba to reestablish diplomatic relations severed since january of 1961. going forward, the united states will reestablish an embassy in
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havana and high-ranking officials will visit cuba. where we can advance shared interests, we will. on issues like health, migration, counterterrorism, drug trafficking, and disaster response. indeed we've seen the benefits of cooperation between our countries before. it was a cuban, carlos findly who discovered that mosquitos carry yellow fever, his work helped walter reid fight it. cuba sent hundreds of health care workers to africa to fight ebola, and i believe american and cuban health care workers should work side by side to stop the spread of this deadly disease. now, where we disagree, we will raise those differences directly. as we will continue to do on issues related to democracy, and human rights in cuba. but i believe that we can do more to support the cuban people and promote our values through engagement.
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afterall, these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. it's time for a new approach. second, i've instructed secretary kerry to review cuba's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. it will be guided by the facts and the law. terrorism has changed in the last several decades, at a time when you are focussed on threats from al qaeda to isil, a nation that meets our conditions and renounces the use of terrorism should not face this sanction. third, we are taking steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from cuba. this is fundamentally about freedom and openness, and also expresses my belief in the power of power engagement. with the changes i'm announcing today, it'll be easier for americans to travel to cuba. and americans will be able to use american credit and debit cards on the island. nobody represents america's
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values better than the american people. and i believe this contact will ultimately do more to empower the cuban people. i also believe that more resources should be able to research the cuban people. so we're significantly increasing the amount of money sent to cuba and removing limits on remittances that support humanitarian projects, the cuban people, and the emerging cuban private sector. i believe that american businesses should not be put at a disadvantage. and that increased commerce is good for americans and for cubans. so we will facilitate authorized transactions between the united states and cuba. u.s. financial institutions can open accounts at cuban financial institutions. and it will be easier for u.s. exporters to sell goods in cuba. i believe in the free flow of information. unfortunately, our sanctions on cuba have denied cubans access to technology that has empowered individualed around the globe.
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aye authorized increased telecommunications connections between the united states and cuba. businesses will be able to sell goods that enable cubans to communicate with the united states and other countries. these are the steps that i can take as president to change this policy. the embargo that's been imposed for decades is now cot fied in legislation. as these changes unfold, i look forward to engaging congress in an honest and serious debate about lifting the embargo. yesterday i spoke with raul castro to finalize alan gross's release and the exchange of prisoners and to describe how we will move forward. i made clear my strong belief that cuban society is constrained by restrictions on its citizens. in addition to the return of alan gross and the release of our intelligence agent, we welcome cuba's decision to release a substantial number of prisoners whose cases were directly raised with the cuban government by my team. we welcome cuba's decision to provide more access to the
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internet for its citizens and to continue increasing engagement with international institutions like the united nations and the international committee of the red cross that promote universal values. but i'm under no illusion about the continued barriers for freedom that remain for ordinary cubans. the united states believes that no cuban should face harassment or arrest or beatings, simply because they're exercising a universal right to have their voices heard. and we will continue to support civil society there. while cuba has made reforms to gradually open up its economy, we continue to believe that cuban workers should be freed to form unions, just as the citizens should be freed to participate in the political presses. moreover, given cuba's history, i expect it'll continue to pursue foreign policies that will at times be sharply at odds with american interests, i do not expect the changes i'm announcing today to bring about a transformation of cuban
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society overnight, but i am convinced that through a policy of engagement, we can more effectively stand up for our values and help the cuban people help themselves as they move into the 21st century. to those who oppose the steps i'm announcing today, let me say that i respect your passion and share your commitment to liberty and democracy. the question is, how we uphold that commitment. i do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result. moreover it does not serve america's interests or the cuban people to try to push cuba towards collapse. even if that worked, and it hasn't for 50 years, we know from hard-earned experience that countries are more likely to enjoy lasting transformation if their people are not subjected to chaos. we are calling on cuba to unleash the potential on 11
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million cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities. in that spirit, we should not allow u.s. sanctions to add to the burden of cuban citizens that we seek to help. to the cuban people, america extends a hand of friendship. some of you have looked to us as a source of hope, and we will continue to shine a light of freedom. others have seen us as a former come onizer content on controlling your future. liberty is the right of every man to be honest, today, i'm being honest with you. we can never erase the history between us, but we shall that you should be empowered to live with dignity and self-determination. cubans have a saying about daily life. it's not easy. today the united states wants to be a partner in making the lives of ordinary cubans a little bit easier.
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more free. more prosperous. to those who have supported these measures, i thank you for being partners in our efforts. in particular, i want to thank his holiness pope francis whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is. the government of canada, which hosted our discussions with the cuban government, and a bipartisan group of congressmen who've worked tirelessly for alan gross's release and a new approach of advancing our interests and values in cuba. finally, our shift in policy towards cuba comes at a moment of renewed leadership in the americas. this april, we are prepared to have cuba join the other nations of the hemisphere at the summit of the americas. but we will insist that civil society join us. so that citizens, not just leaders, are shaping our future. and i call on all my fellow leaders to give meaning to the commitment of democracy and human rights at the heart of the
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inner america charter. let us leave behind the legacy of both come onization and communication. the tyranny of drug cartels, dictators, and sham elections. a future of greater peace, security, and democratic development is possible, if we work together. not to maintain power, not to secure vested interests, but instead to advance the dreams of our citizens. my fellow americans, the city of miami is only 200 miles or so from havana. countless thousands of cubans have come to miami on planes, makeshift rafts, some with little, but the shirt on their back and hope in their hearts. today, miami is often referred to as the capitol of latin america. but it is also a profoundly american city, a place that reminds us that ideals matter more than the color of our skin
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or the circumstances of our birth. a demonstration of what the cuban people can achieve, and the openness of the united states to our family to the south. change is hard, in our own lives and in the lives of nations, and change is even harder when we carry the heavy weight of history on our shoulders. but today, we are making these changes because it is the right thing to do. today america chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past, reach for a better future. for the cuban people, for the american people, for our entire hemisphere, and for the world. thank you. god bless you, and god bless the united states of america. >> the president from the cabinet room in the white house as raul castro simultaneously spoke to the people of cuba, we welcome those viewers watching andrea mitchell reports on msnbc
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as well as the viewers with us on the nbc television network. and let's bring in our chief foreign affairs correspondent, andrea mitchell who for a good deal of her adult life, especially covering the beat of foreign affairs has covered and dealt with this issue. and andrea, sum what we have just seen take place in the last half hour. >> it's extraordinary. we've heard from both presidents, raul castro and president obama. we've learned that the president and raul castro spoke for 45 minutes yesterday. we've learned they're going to normalize relations for the first time since 1961, almost 54 years. we've learned they are going to loosen the exchanges of people of remittances, people in miami can start sending a lot more money home. travel will be easier, although embargo cannot be lifted without lifting the helms law from 1996, that'll be very, very difficult, but they will be a lot more
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freedom. there'll be a lot more freedom of exchange, 53 cuban political prisoners, many of whom i know who were in prison in 2003 are being released from cuban prisonings -- prisons in havana. american spy is being sent home. three cubans, men who have been imprisoned here in the united states for 15 years, who the cubans have argued unfairly convicted in the miami court are also being sent home. they were on charges of conspiracy to commit espionage. this is an opening of all of the economic possibilities between the two countries that are permissible, other than the formal embargo that came under jfk. president obama is doing something, john kerry flew in, embraced alan gross i'm told. got popcorn and a corned beef sandwich on rye with mustard on that plane. he and his family have said it's significant that today is the
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first day of hanukkah, a holiday very, very important to them. they are very committed on sempbt jews, and he is coming home after five years, he was accompanied home by dick durbin, pat leahy. very detailed exchange, i should point out that we were aware of the negotiations and have been asked not to report them because of fear the prison door would not open today when that plane landed from the united states at 8:00 a.m. in havana that the prison door would not open until they were cleared of the cuban air space. >> andrea mitchell who we now return to her own broadcast, andrea, we will see you later tonight on our broadcast, nbc nightly news, andrea mitchell from washington, here in our studio, the chairman of the council on foreign -- >> joining me now is pat leahy who helped negotiate this very delicate deal. senator, you and i have talked a long time, and frankly you blew me off ten days ago when i asked
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you about reports, you kept your secret, and i know i was someplace last night where they had expected you, and now i know where you were. senator, tell me about alan gross. >> it was a case where we were on top of it. the senators came with me, we all came together on this because we've all been working so hard on the matter. we wanted to escort alan gross back. it was wonderful because his wife was on the plane with us going down in the wee hours of this morning. and just to see the two of them together to come back and watch his reaction when he got on the plane, and the cheer they let out when it came over the intercom on the plane that we
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had crossed into u.s. air space, but this is something we've all worked on a long time, i knew it was probably going to come, i didn't know the exact day when you and i had talked, everybody had been sworn to secrecy. >> senator, let me ask you about the bigger implications for u.s. policy because there is so much that can be done without lifting helmsburg which came into play in 1996 when in fact havana shot down americans activists who were the brothers to the rescue from miami, so there were a lot of conflicting reports as to exactly what happened, but bill clinton signed that, there have been efforts towards normalization under clinton in his first term, and that really cemented the embargo which has frozen relationships. how much can be done around the margins, bank accounts, remittances today? >> i think a great deal can be done, certainly taking them off
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the terrorist list and moving toward the freedom of americans u.s. citizens to go there. you know, we u.s. citizens can go to any country in the world provided they let us in, except for cuba. it makes us look foolish in the rest of the world. we're not going to change cuba to be politically a match of us, nor they us, but we are 90 miles apart. and the reality is we should be working the people of both countries should be working together, not at odds to the extent that anything goes wrong in cuba right now they could blame the united states because of our embargo. we have an awful lot of people in this country across the political spectrum who'd like to see us react as though it's reality. you know, i have to think there were a number of presidents to president kennedy and president
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johnson, president nixon, president ford, president carter, so on, saying just hang tough, we'll get rid of the castros. 50 years later, they're still there. it's a reality, it's time for us to face reality. but would you like to speak with the others who are there with me? >> yes, i would. one final question to you because i know how involved you've been with rome, tell me about pope francis's engagement in this? >> well i wrote to the pope, i sent him some thoughts on this. i know he saw them, and whether, i don't think he needed me to push him to do it, i think he felt very strongly, now is the time for normalization. i know he weighed in heavily and i appreciate that fact. >> and i think you have senator durbin and congressman chris van hollen there -- >> senator flake came with me. >> let me talk to senator flake, and then congressman van hollen.
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>> sure, here is senator flake. >> senator flake, thank you very much, as a republican, i know you went against the grain in your party, some members of your party. what do you say to republicans about this opening of relations? >> i think for too long we've let cuba dictate our policy. we should do what is in our interest. and it's in our interest to allow americans to travel and to have better relations. i think that that has the best chance of spurring good developments in cuba. >> senator flake, how do we know, aside from the release of 53 cuban political prisoners today, how do we know that cuba will live up to its part of the deal to open up internet access to free the political exchanges, to start thinking about the establishment of unions and of course free elections? >> we don't. we don't at all. allowing americans to travel
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more freely to cuba will help with telecommunications, internet, as more americans travel, it'll inevitably open things up there. just through the normal course of events rather than have some dirty, clumsy program run by usaid to do the same thing that happened or beganically if we allowed people to travel. >> any insights as to alan gross's health or his demeanor on the flight? looks as though he was very joyous in the pictures we've seen. >> it was, let me tell you. it was just extremely joyous for his wife and for alan and senator leahy mentioned when we entered u.s. air space, you could see the relief on his face, and he let out a cheer. and it was just a wonderful thing to be there. >> senator flake, jeff flake, you've worked so hard on this, thank you so much. chris van hollen is with you, democratic congressman from
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maryland. i know from personal experience, you come from a diplomatic family, you've lived this for 50 years. tell me what this means to you. >> well, this is a new chapter for the country, and what it means to me is a recognition that the last 54 years of american policy toward cuba has been a total and miserable failure by our own measure. all right. by our measure of trying to open up cuba to have positive change. we obviously haven't accomplished that. the way to accomplish that is the way the president's outlined here. more engagement, more travel, more trade, more communications, that's the way to help open up cuba, trying to isolate the island obviously has not succeeded in bringing about the reforms we wanted. so alan gross who is obviously thrilled to be free and back on u.s. soil and has spent five years in a cuban prison,
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welcomes this new change because he wants to see change come to the cuban people. >> when do you think we are going to start seeing the first fruits of this new policy? >> well, it's something that takes place over time. it doesn't happen overnight, but as more americans travel to cuba as we have more trade with cuba. you helped open up the process. you provide more freedom of action. afterall, this provides for a freer exchange of goods, a freer exchange of ideas, in fact, the only people who should be worried about this policy are the people who want less freedom in cuba, not more freedom. >> we're looking at pictures from andrew air force base, still photos, i see i think congressman jim and others, and i think i've watched you in a picture with john kerry and alan gross in one of the rooms at andrew's air force base watching the president, is that correct? >> well, senator leahy, senator
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flake and i returned to the capitol just before secretary kerry landed, but we deplaned with alan and judy gross. you know, judy gross has been a friend, i knew alan, you know, starting in the early 2000s, and judy has just been relentless and tireless in working to bring alan home. and a number of us have been working hard to help her do that, and we were just pleased to see the smile on alan gross's face when we arrived at the airport in cuba. >> now that i look at that picture, i see that it's alan and judy gross with secretary kerry watching. what did alan gross say to you on the plane? >> well, i mean, he had a great sense of humor. he was clearly relieved to be out of cuba and back in american air space, he had a good conversation with the president,
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and you know, he told us how wonderful it was to finally see the day that he was set free. there have been lots of efforts over the last five years to secure his freedom, a lot of people working very hard behind the scenes. and so, i think there had to be times when we wondered whether this day would ever come. and so on the plane, he was just very gratified and grateful with the work of everybody, and of course especially his wife judy. >> just to clarify, he talked to the president on the flight? >> yes, he did. the president called him on the plane while we were on route from cuba back to andrew's air force base. >> and can you share any, any of what you may have heard? or what he may have shared afterwards. >> well, he told me, you know, it was a great honor to talk to the president. he thanked the president for the president's efforts. and i also mentioned the
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president that he was grateful not just for his release, but for the president's change in policy toward cuba. and i think it's very telling that, you know, an american who has been locked up in five years is not only pleased to be free and out of prison, but also believes that the president's announced policy will bring more freedom to the cuban people. >> thank you so much chris van hollen. i know this has been an historic day for you because of your efforts in the past and thanks for calling, jeff van hollen, and thanks of course to pat leahy as well and to jeff flake. and joining us now from new mexico, senator tom udall who travelled to cuba for his imprisonment, joins me now. senator, your reactions about all of the rapid, the evolving events. these have been difficult secret negotiations, some of them hosted by canada in fact over the past year. >> well, first of all, joyous
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about the return of alan gross. i think this is a wonderful thing for him, for his family, for his wife judy, and i just, i share a little bit of that joy today, it's something pretty special, but i think this is a historic day for relations with cuba and the united states. i believe very much that this action today will empower the cuban people, will make them freer and move us in the right direction in terms of normalizing relations between cuba and the united states. >> and by the way, we've been looking, senator, at some of the pictures that senator leahy shared, these are pictures that pat leahy and a photographer took as well and shared with us. >> he's a great photographer. he's one of the few people that can go into the white house or go any place and just shoot pictures. he gets some great shots. no doubt about it. but this, this is, this is a day for us to start thinking in
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congress as to what we should be doing because the president has been pointed out can take certain actions, but it's really congress that drops the embargo and that moves towards dropping the embargo. i think we should do that. i sit on the foreign relations committee, i went to cuba with senator flake and met with alan gross, and i think we ought to get down to our work at the first of the year here and see if we can't craft a good, bipartisan effort forward to drop this embargo. >> thanks so much, senator udall. and now for a very different perspective, this is marco rubio, the florida senator also speaking on capitol hill. >> whose rights are being abused. it is just another concession to a tyranny by the obama administration, rather than a defense of every universal and inalienable right that our country was founded on and stands for. and short with these changes are going to do is they will tighten
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this regime's grip on power for decades to come. and it will significantly set back the hopes of freedom and democracy for the cuban people. now i am overjoyed for alan gross and his family. he has been a hostage of this regime who was kept against his will for far too long. our prayers are with him and his family because he was not just a prisoner, he was a hostage. but this president has proven today that his foreign policy is more than just naive, it's willfully ignorant of the way the world truly works. this administration just last week finally agreed, after months of congressional pressure, to impose sanctions on the venezuelan government officials who are violating human rights. a government that has spent all of 2014 appallingly killing, jailing, and violently oe pressing its own people, and yet a week later, this administration is making historic concessions to the very
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cuban government that supports and is behind the tyranny in venezuela. the cuban government is influential at the highest levels of the venezuelan regime and helped them master mind the crackdown on the venezuela people. this policy contradiction is absurd and it is disgraceful for a president who claims human rights and human freedom. this president is the single worst negotiator we have had in the white house in my lifetime who has basically given the cuban government everything it asked for. and received no assurances of any advances in democracy and freedom in return. let me close by reminding everyone that god bestowed on the cuban people the same rights that he did on every other man, woman, and child that has ever lived. the inalienable rights spoken about in our founding documents. the cuban people like all those oppressed around the world, they look to america to stand up for
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these rights, to live up to our commitment to the god-given right of every person. to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. these rights exist not just for people born in the continental united states, but for people everywhere. it is unacceptable that the only people in this hemisphere that do not know democracy and have not known democracy for more than five decades is the people of cubcuba. that should be our overriding objective to do all we can to bring about political democratic openings in cuba. and free cuban people can decide whatever model they want, but the measures taken to do will do nothing to bring about that day and in fact i fear will significantly set it back. today by conceding to the oppressors, this president and this administration have let the people of cuba down.
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>> marco rubio, very strong objections. joining me now is julius wide, latin america studies and chuck todd, moderator of meet the press joining me as well from the newsroom. chuck, let's listen to julia first because you have been studying this for so long, what do you think of the most important steps being taken today? >> well, of course, it's human and family dimension of bringing alan gross home is enormously important. the release of prisoners here and there for all of those individuals and the families, it's a wonderful step. the magnitude of this step by the president in terms of taking significant moves to redo normalized, make more natural this relationship that's been so stuck and fraught for half a century is very significant. it's significant for the two countries, it's significant for americans standing in latin
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america, it's signature for cuba's future. a reform process that raul castro has unleashed is going quite slowly. i believe, however, that the impulse and the imme us to will help that process move forward. >> and chuck todd, the president could have taken smaller steps, he had a lot of leverage here. he's gone big. he's done, i'm told, what john kerry first broached to him when they talked about whether kerry would become secretary of state. >> this is something that candidate obama seemed to hint that he would eventually do if he were elected president. it's always been a matter of when they were going to do this. you talk to anybody inside the foreign policy circle around president obama, and this was on their checklist of things to do before he left office. which was to change radically change the relationship with cuba, but i just want to the echo something that i think has
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been overlooked and i'm glad julia mentioned this, the reason why the united states has not been able to basically get the rest of latin america create basically this idea of an america's power house and really improve diplomatic relations is cuba's been a big impediment in sort of, when any time the united states engages in latin american policy, how this could change the u.s.'s ability to influence latin america in general, create this big economic power of the southern and western hemispheres nogt a way that asia and europe had done. i think a part of this that's getting overlooked and could become the big long-term benefit of this change in policy. >> well chuck, just to that point, there is the upcoming summit for the first time, the oas in panama being held in panama in april has invited cuba. up until now, they had enough leverage to block cuba from participating, this time raul castro and barack obama will be
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at the same summit. that's april. so if enough progress has happened until then, i think you're going to see a completely different relationship, one other point that has been stressed by critics of the administration, the u.n. vote was 192-1 against the u.s. recently on the subject, the annual vote that cuba always pushes on the embargo. so whatever the other human rights violations by havana, the fact that we are losing at the united nations palow i think was the only other supporter in the general assembly, that has been a black eye really against the u.s. position around the world. >> and andrea, let's not overlook that the politics in florida changed, okay. we now have back to back elections where the democrat, a pro lifting the embargo, charlie crist in 2014, essentially broke even in the cuban-american vote in florida. so the idea that it was once
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politically you couldn't touch it, florida is too important of a state, all of those things, the politics of this shifted politically, the country, florida, cuban-americans, much further ahead of i think where washington has been on this issue for quite some time. >> and chuck and julia, i want to play a little bit of raul castro, he spoke at the same time as the president, this is part of what he had to say. we also have a picture from the white house, from the white house photographer of the president yesterday in that historic conversation with raul castro. that's the picture of the president speaking to castro from the oval office for 45 minutes, let's listen to raul castro just 40 minutes ago. >> we have agreed to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations. this does not mean that the main aspects have been resolved, the economic embargo, financial, and
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trade embargo that causes enormous human toil and economic toil to our country must stop. i call on the government of the united states to remove the obstacles that impedes or restricts the links and the bonds among our peoples. >> rowell castro was the head of the military before he became commander and chief in president. julia, he's wearing his military uniform, i've seen him dressed in civilian uniform, this is an important message domestically to cubans that he's in charge. >> and to a certain sediment of cubans who would regard an overhaul of policy of this dramatic as something of a threat, or at least of a challenge to their own vest the interests.
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he wears it when he gives a speech at the national assembly, he wears a suit when he travels abroad, coat and tie, this is sending a small that even though the relationship will change, we are revolutionary cuba. >> joining us by phone is linda gross, alan gross's cousin. linda who worked so actively behind the scenes to try to release her cousin and also works in another division at nbc, linda, your thoughts today and seeing the happy pictures of alan and judy gross reunited and back on u.s. soil. >> we are overjoyed. we are thrilled. we are crying. our hearts are light, lighter, and it's a hanukkah miracle. we're just crying and we can't wait to make a big party for him. he deserves it. >> he looks thin, but he certainly looks fit if you can observe this at least superficially. >> well, i was told he was having some hip problems and walking, but we don't want to
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focus on his health issues, we want to focus on his mental state. always had a wonderful, wonderful sense of humor on the phone with me when we spoke. he would make he laugh. i was the one trying to cheer him up and he would tell me a funny thing and make me laugh. and i always e-mailed him and said stay strong, and he said you know, i will, i'm a gross -- i said go down fighting and he said i don't fight. he always had a wonderful, wonderful approach to all of this. and he loves the cuban people. he feels very strongly about the cuban people. >> and linda, just any thoughts about his food choices on the flight, i'm told it was popcorn and corned beef on rye with mustard. >> he told me in a few e-mails on the phone he'd love to have a single malt beer. so when we have this big party for him, a table set up with all sorts of malt beers for him to choose from. >> thank you very much, linda, thank you for everything you've done and -- >> and thank you for everything you've done. you've been really wonderful, all of the people behind the
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scenes trying to help us. i really, really, and my parents, my family, we all really appreciate what you've done. >> well linda, we are so happy to see him free. thank you so much. and joining me from havana, new york congressman charlie rangel, but phone, he's been traveling, on camera, congressman, thank you very much. good to see you, tell me about your reactions in havana today. >> the people in havana are so excited. i'm so proud to be an american. they're happy that this is going to allow them to become closer friends of america, and i'm happy because it means that we'll have a stronger country with the support that cuba can give us in the hemisphere. >> and we've heard from critics, marco rubio, mendes, what do you sty some of your colleagues in the house and senate who are going to fight this so hard? there's a lot the president can
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do administrativadministrativel bigger issue is the embargo, eventually, do you think it should ever be lifted? >> of course. it's not individuals that have emotional ties to cuba that dictate our national foreign policy, it's the president of the united states. and it pains know hear members of congress insult the president. the president is doing what he has been elected to do, and that is to do what's best for the united states of america and not for a couple of people who have strong, emotional ties against castro. of course we have to take these things under consideration, but when you find out that we're the only nation in the hemisphere that doesn't recognize cuba, when you think of the organization of american states that hold against us for not recognizing cuba, what they can do to help us fight terrorism, immigration problems, change in
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medical information, it's just the plus for both of our great countries, and i am just so proud that the president's taking this. once the doors of communications are over, the american people will be hurried, and of course, in this land of ours, those people who disagree will have a platform, but they won't have the vote. >> and, congressman rangel, there was a time after katrina when the bush administration refused cuba's help to try to clean up the gulf. now, post the obama administration during ebola, cuban doctors and medical teams in africa were trying to help ebola patients, but couldn't get supplies because they needed to use cash. they couldn't use credit because of the restrictions. so are these the kinds of things that will now be possible? >> you're so right. it was so embarrassing to see the position taken by the united
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states, even after 9/11, it was the cuban people, not the cuban government that was offering us blood. there's no question that we're ever -- wherever there's a challenge, whether it's in africa, whether it's in haiti, the cuban medical community has come forward, and we have worked with them and we have supported their efforts, and so, what has been removed is a small, political vote count in florida, and that has been removed. and now the love and affection that americans have for cuba and certainly here in havana, than cubans have for america. let the american and cuban people get to know each other, work more closely together, it's one of the most proud days in my life, and i am so glad that i'm in havana, cuba, to enjoy it. >> charlie wraingle, thanks so much -- rankle, thanks congressman. i am joined by alan gomez.
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he is live in miami's little havana neighborhood. i suspect that there's a very different response there, but you tell me, alan gomez, what are you hearing from people there? well, we tried to establish the audio contact with alan gomez in little havana. we're going to work on that. julia is still with me, there is a generational change as chuck todd was saying, there are different politics in florida now. miami, and little havana certainly though would be the hard core reaction of the people who have fuelled a lot of the anger and dictated the policy for many generations. >> the trend has been changing since 1998 in terms of presidential elections and what we saw as recently as 2012 is again that president obama and that has chuck said, charlie crist was able to break even and in fact break into the even the older generations of cuban-american voters, not just the 18 to 35-year-olds.
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moreover, cuban-americans are sending so much money and remittances, helping their families on the island, that's helping the south florida economy. and those organic ties are shaping the politics. >> and alan gomez in little havana, now that we've fixed the audio problem, thanks so much, we've been talking about how big the changes are, and one thing would be direct flights because the flights are the so-called charter flights, they're twice a day, they're very restricted. once this opens up, there would be commercial travel to havana. >> yeah, i mean, and the funny thing is, there has been commercial travel tr to havana from miami, california, places in new york, and it's just there's not a lot of opening for that. what the president's order is going to do is expand the pool of americans that can go. it's still barred for tourism travel, but for things like religious opportunities, educational missions, humanitarian trips, it's going to be a lot assier to be able to get down there now. >> what is the reaction there? you've talked to people, alan,
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are people mixed feelings, angry, give me a sense of what they're saying in little havana. >> well, as you guys were talking about earlier, there is definitely a change in the cuban community. the younger ones, they're more accepting of releasing the embargo of cutting it down a little bit, but the people you see behind me are the ones that spent a lot of time in cuba, spent time in the political prisons there, you can imagine what they're talking about today is a betrayal, back stabbing that all their efforts that ensure a free cuba have been undermined by what the president has done today. but in other portions of the state, it's a lot less, a lot less angry and more open-minded as to what the president's done. >> this will mean though for many cuban-americans that more remittances, big expansion of the amount of money they can send home which will be a factor. >> no, absolutely. i mean one of the things that this does is not only allows relatives of cubans out on the
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island send more money, but it allows non-relatives to send money. before if you're a regular money and you wanted to send money in cuba, $500 every quarter. that's increased to $2,000 now. now your opportunity to do business down there will be more expanded if you're in the tech any logical realm or communication industry. there's going to be more interaction now and they can send a lot more money directly to the cubans with the cuban government taking a cut of all that. it's going to get more money in the hands of the cubans down there. >> and, alan, finally, when you talk to cuban-americans in florida, do many of them want to go back, some of them have gone back obviously visited relative ts, but it thing -- relatives, but if things open up for aggressively for travel, would some of them want to go back and try to revisit cuba? >> well, i think that's one of the most difficult things. we're talking a lot about the politics and the economics about
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the president's move today, but i mean there are millions of people here in south florida and around the country who have that background who came from cuba. and for them it's such an issue. i can tell you, my mother came here shortly after fidel castro took over and she's never gone back. not for a political reason, she doesn't to want see that. she doesn't want to see the home taken away from her. so that just gives you an idea for some folks, it's not about being able to go, if she wanted to go, she could. we have relatives down there, but it's such a personal issue and makes it so difficult to figure out whether you want to see that, whether you want to experience it. so that's why for a lot of the folks here, not only is it very personal that they had something taken away from them, they have relatives there they may or may not to want see again. it's a tough decision that a lot of americans will be making more these days. >> alan gomez, thank you so much. and on the phone is now barbara lee of california, congresswoman, i know you were in cuba only a few days ago, talk to me about what you think about what the president's done
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and what the opposition's going to be politically. >> so first, andrea, i believe the president has done absolutely the right thing. this is really a very exciting day. i returned late last night from cuba and really have been since the '70s, mid-70s, in an effort to try to normalize relations, and i've had the opportunity to meet with alan grostz, at least four times. and so i was so happy just to see alan come home. his family, his friends, but this is just on a very personal level, for myself, very, very exciting. very humbling moment. i think it's important to recognize that this 50-year policy has failed. it has not accomplished what previous administrations had wanted it to accomplish. and now, with the beginning of normal relations, the american people will be able to have the right to travel to cuba, to see for themselves what they want to
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see. they'll have a chance to engage in exchanges medical exchanges and be free to travel. like they're free to travel to vietnam and cuba. hopefully we'll be able to fully lift the embargo so that business opportunities can continue to evolve because believe you me, jobs can be created through economic activity with cuba. be created in our own country. this. benefits both the cuban people and the american people. i am very exited that this is taking place and i want to applaud the president for this. >> barbara lee, thank you so much. alan gomez touched on the fact that families were divided, some stayed in havana, some came here. those are political divisions. and so reunite families like that after 50 years, some of the most hard lying critics of cuba policy can be very tough. >> it will be tough, but it's already started to happen under
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the radar. and president obama's helped that process when he came into office, but we have already had cases of people who were long-time hard liners, who have quietly gone back. they've looked at their property. they've talked to cuban government officials about participating in the cuban economy in the future. there are already kind of rupture of those hard, strict divisions, cross generationally and across both parties. >> and let's just recap by listening to a bit of what president obama had to say at the top of the hour. >> to those who oppose the steps i'm announcing today, let me say that i respect your passion and share your commitment to liberty and democracy. the question is, how we uphold that commitment. i do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result. >> thank you so much for being with us, julia, we'll have more
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on this all day. that does it for this special edition of andrea mitchell reports. remember follow the show online, facebook, and twitter. thanks for being with us today. ronan pharaoh daily is next. when the game's on the line. hit him with a hard count, see if they'll tip their hand. the nfl trusts duracell quantum to their game day communication. they're blitzing up the gut! get out of the pocket! hut! duracell quantum.
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♪(the music builds to a climax.) more people are coming to audi than ever before. see why now is the best time. audi will cover your first month's payment on select models at the season of audi sales event. visit audioffers.com today. welcome everybody, # p.m. on the east right now, 10:00 a.m. on the west, we have breaking news this hour after the release of american alan gross by cuba, and of course the seismic shift just announced this past hour by the president on u.s. policy on cuba. right now we are awaiting two live news conferences that should have more major revelations in a half hour. alan gross himself. this will be his first commentary since his release imprisonment in half in a for all those -- havana for all those years. we're going to hear from members
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of congress who traveled from washington to cuba today. we're going to bring you any news that happens out of both of these. gross landed late this morning after as we mentioned being held for five years in captivity on espionage charges. he was arrested while working for a sub-contractor on a controversial u.s. agency for international development project, helping to set up internet access. cuba's view, circumventing their crackdowns on information access. president obama spoke about gross's release last hour from the white house, and announced that major overhaul in cuba policy. >> over many months my administration has held discussions with the cuban government about alan's case and other aspects of our relationship. his holiness pope francis issued a personal appeal to me and to cuba's president raul castro urging us to resolve alan's case and to address cu's

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