President Barack Obama’s policy shift on Cuba is getting support from an unlikely source: Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. Paul said Thursday it was “probably a good idea” to reopen trade with the United States’ communist neighbor to the south, adding that the decades-long embargo has been ineffective at toppling the Castro regime.
"In the end, I think opening up Cuba is probably a good idea," Paul told Tom Roten in a radio interview for WVHU, a Huntington, West Virginia, station. "The 50-year embargo just hasn't worked. If the goal is regime change, it sure doesn't seem to be working and probably it punishes the people more than the regime because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship.”
Obama’s shocking announcement on Wednesday to take steps to normalize relations with Cuba was condemned by most Republicans, including Cuban-American and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Rubio called the president’s move an act of “tyranny.” Cuba in part agreed to send 53 prisoners back to the United States and further open Internet access while the U.S. agreed to set up an embassy in Cuba and loosen travel restrictions between the countries. The embargo that has been in place since 1961 was not part of the deal, since Congress would need to sign off on it.
“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” Obama said in a 15-minute address to the nation. “Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the Cuban and the American people and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.”
Paul’s comments were a departure from the mainstream Republican response to the president’s action. He was also the first possible Republican presidential nominee to side with Obama on the Cuba policy.