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Goal: Improved Ties With Cuba But Clinton Says ‘We’re At Impasse’ Until Castro Moves Toward Democracy

Mon., Nov. 10, 1997

President Clinton said Sunday he wants to develop “an ongoing relationship” with Fidel Castro’s Cuba much like the one he has with China - but only after America’s communist neighbor moves toward democracy.

In an interview on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press,” Clinton said he had been working toward “a gradually evolving relationship” with Havana until Cuban fighters shot down two small planes piloted by Cuban-Americans in February 1996. Until then, Clinton had resisted tougher anti-Cuba legislation in Congress, but he signed the so-called Helms-Burton Act after that attack.

“So, we are at an impasse now,” Clinton said. “I still want that kind of relationship with Cuba, but we have to have some kind of indication there will be an opening up, a movement toward democracy, … and I don’t have that indication today.”

Clinton stopped short of saying he wants diplomatic relations with Cuba, as his reference to ties with China would imply, and White House officials said it was not his intent to indicate he wants such ties. “No,” said national security spokeswoman Ann Luzatto, “not under the current circumstances.”

The Cuban president himself once again rejected prospects for change in the near future. “In Cuba, there was, there is and there will be a revolution based on principles that are not for sale,” Castro told 21 heads of state Saturday at the annual Ibero-American summit in Porlamar, Venezuela.

Clinton addressed an array of issues during the hourlong NBC interview. He pondered his presidential legacy, saying he believes his contribution would be to help America remain a player in the global economy and society.

The president also said:

He cannot rule out a military strike against Iraq, which has refused to allow the United Nations to inspect possible weapons sites. “It’s very important that the president maintain all options and signal none.”

He opposes teaching homosexuality in public schools as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, but he believes children should not be taught to discriminate against or fear homosexual males and lesbians.

He believes the use of “soft money” contributions to buy television commercials during the 1996 political campaign “played a role in bringing down voter confidence” and underscores the need to overhaul the nation’s campaign finance system.


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