- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2014

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday that it’s “time now to turn” the “page of history” on U.S.-Cuba relations, but that pressure on the Castro brothers will remain going into the future in the wake of the announcement that the U.S. will begin to normalize relations with the communist island country.

“Over the last 50 years, I have watched this policy unfold, and I have been part of it,” he said on “CBS This Morning,” noting that as secretary of state he supported and even worked to strengthen sanctions against Cuba.

“But I think it’s time now to turn [that] page of history,” he said. “I don’t see anything wrong with opening diplomatic relations with Cuba; we have diplomatic relations with other nations. … They’re not going to get off the sanctions list anytime soon; Congress isn’t going to do that.”

“But it’s good to have an ambassador there who could tell the Cubans, ‘This is what comes if you start to respond in a positive way,’ ” he said.

Mr. Powell still cautioned against having illusions, saying that “this is still a terrible regime. We don’t support their form of government, we don’t like what they’re doing, but I think having diplomatic relations, as we’ve had with the Soviet Union and with Vietnam and so many other places, we can produce positive change.”

He said he is not recommending to Congress that they lift the longstanding embargo against Cuba but that he is recommending they “take it under advisement.”

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“Monitor what the Cubans are doing, and if they reach a point where they think that sufficient progress has been made, then Congress [could] consider it,” he said. “But this is just the beginning — we’re not lifting the sanctions yet and there’s a lot of pressure that will remain on the Castro brothers and should remain on them until they start to show the kind of positive movement that we want to see — releasing political prisoners, opening up the economy, making life easier and more open for the Cuban people.”

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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