TIME 2016 Election

Rand Taunts Rubio On Cuba Policy

Rubio "is acting like an isolationist," Paul charges

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul took to Twitter Friday to criticize his Republican colleague and likely 2016 presidential-primary rival Sen. Marco Rubio for the latter’s continued support of the U.S. embargo of Cuba.

In a series of tweets, Paul taunted the Florida senator over Rubio’s opposition to President Barack Obama’s efforts to normalize relations between the two countries, accusing Rubio of “acting like an isolationist.” The charge was even more biting given that Paul has been criticized by Republican hawks for being an isolationist on foreign policy.

Paul said Obama’s move was “probably a good idea,” while Rubio has heavily criticized the move.

The tweets are only the latest digital assault that Paul’s team has launched against a potential primary rival. Earlier this week, Paul’s political-action committee began running Google search ads critical of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

TIME Cuba

White House Open to Raul Castro Visit

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro during the official memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium, Dec. 10, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro during the official memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium, Dec. 10, 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

President Barack Obama is not ruling out meeting Cuban President Raul Castro at the White House, as his administration works to restore ties to the communist country.

A day after the president announced the beginning of efforts to normalize relations with Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Obama would be willing to host the Cuban leader, comparing it to visits from leaders from other countries with checkered human rights records.

“The president has had the leaders of both Burma and China to the United States, and for that reason, I wouldn’t rule out a visit from President Castro,” Earnest said Thursday.

The two leaders spoke on the phone for nearly an hour on Tuesday evening reviewing the agreement to release American subcontractor Alan Gross and to take steps scale back the longstanding American embargo and travel ban. The two met briefly in South Africa last year at a memorial for Nelson Mandela.

In an interview with ABC News Wednesday, Obama wouldn’t rule a trip himself to Cuba. “I don’t have any current plans, but let’s see how things evolve,” he told David Muir. In a statement Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry said he was planning to visit Cuba. “I look forward to being the first Secretary of State in 60 years to visit Cuba,” he said.

 

TIME Foreign Policy

Bush Commerce Secretary Says Obama Gave Cuba ‘a Major Political Win’

The 1st China Conference Of Quality
Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez gives a speech during the opening session of the 1st China Conference of Quality at The Great Hall Of The People on Sept. 15, 2014 in Beijing. Feng Li—Getty Images

"The U.S. has given so many concessions and not received anything in return," Carlos Gutierrez tells TIME

Former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez told TIME Thursday that the U.S. “will have egg on our face” following President Barack Obama’s move to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time in half-a-century. Gutierrez, a Cuban-born former Kellogg CEO who worked in the administration of President George W. Bush, is now a consultant at the Albright Stonebridge Group.

Here’s his Q&A with TIME, lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

How much flexibility will businesses have if Congress doesn’t actually act to lift the embargo?

How much flexibility there will be for U.S. businesses will depend on how much flexibility the Cuban regime gives to U.S. businesses. That’s the aspect of this that has brought down these agreements. At the end of day, if the Cubans don’t change regulations to allow businesses to go in, invest, and make money [there is not much they can do]. There is talk about opening the Internet, but Cuba is one of most closed Internet countries in world. We have to see this with a certain amount of skepticism that they really are going to allow citizens to have Internet.

Read more: How Pope Francis helped broker the Cuba deal

There’s always been exception [in the embargo law] to be able to do commerce in the telecommunications industry because communications inside the island and communications outside island can only be a benefit. That’s the rationale. But the roaming rates are outrageously high. Who is able to buy a cell phone in Cuba is a matter of public policy, and there are very strict laws, so you know, what we haven’t seen is what the Cuban government is going to do.

This has been a very lopsided agreement, and I can tell you that the Cubans today feel that they have had a major victory. This is a major political win for Raúl Castro; the fact that we recognize them diplomatically is a major political win. They are going to go to Summit of the Americas [in Panama in April], and Raúl Castro will be the man of the hour. President Obama will be comfortable, with the Latinos cheering him on, but the real test really happens after the summit, and the standing of the U.S. in the hemisphere after the U.S. has given so many concessions and not received anything in return.

Which industries are likely to take advantage of loosened restrictions?

Theoretically, the telecommunications industry, to some extent the agriculture industry, to some extent the pharmaceutical industry. The extent to which they will take advantage of this will rely on the good will of the Cubans. Business will only succeed if the Cubans want business to succeed, and everything we have seen from the Cubans over the last 50 years is that they will not allow business to succeed. Why is it different this time? They need to demonstrate that it is different.

What impact will this have on the Cuban economy?

It has some benefit in that the amount of remittances has increased. What we need to remember is that the average Cuban gets paid $20 a month. A rationing card for 30 days only lasts 17 days. The Cuban government has total control. If they let U.S. businesses, let telecommunications, and let credit card companies set up shop freely, the government will lose control. You can use your credit card Cuba, but the banks have to set up inside Cuban banks, and there will probably be a fee that goes to the Cuban government. All of these things are designed to strengthen the government’s hold on the economy, and history suggests that they will not give up an ounce of control.

Will this have any impact on the U.S. economy?

Cuba is an extremely poor country. It is not as if a McDonalds is going to open in three weeks, or we are going to start exporting cars. It doesn’t work like that. People say, now in Cuba you can buy a car and that shows it has opened up, but a car costs $50,000 in Cuba, that’s a heck of a price if you make $20 a month. The big risk here is for President Obama. The Cubans know this agreement can be derailed easily in the U.S. because of politics and because of Congressional intervention. The moment that happens, it is an excuse to blame the U.S. In the meantime, the Cuban government has pocketed all of the concessions. They have been victorious, and they will move on to have the same type of regime they have today, and we will have egg on our face way that President Carter did and other presidents have. That’s the thing to watch, that’s thing to stay close to and not believe that somehow magically Cuba is changing.

TIME 2016 Election

Rand Paul Breaks with Other 2016 Candidates on Cuba

Georgia Senate Candidate David Perdue Campaigns With Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Rand Paul en. Rand Paul works a crowd during a campaign stop on October 24, 2014 in McDonough, Georgia. Jessica McGowan—Getty Images

The announcement from the White House Wednesday that the U.S. will move to re-establish full diplomatic ties with Cuba sparked a wave of condemnation from the likely Republican presidential candidates with one exception: Sen. Rand Paul.

The Kentucky Republican broke with the rest of the 2016 pack today when he said that President Obama’s decision was “a good idea.”

That fits with Paul’s broader effort to attract younger voters and expand the Republican Party, since younger Cuban-Americans are not as supportive of the trade and travel restrictions as their parents, though it could risk turning off some older Republican voters, especially in the crucial battleground of Florida.

It put him on the same side as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the leading contender on the Democratic side, who has argued that the trade embargo was counterproductive.

Here’s a look at what the major Republican contenders had to say about the change in U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Sen. Rand Paul: Supportive

What he said: “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. In the end, I think opening up Cuba is probably a good idea.” (WVHU)

What it meant: The libertarian-leaning son of former Rep. Ron Paul—a longtime critic of America’s Cuba policy—Paul is the rare Republican to come out in support of reestablishing diplomatic relations.

Sen. Marco Rubio: Opposed

What he said: “This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion. On a lie. The lie and the illusion that more access to goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people.” (C-SPAN)

What it meant: A longtime vocal critic of the Castro regime, it’s no surprise Rubio is hewing to his longstanding hardline position. As the son of Cuban immigrants, the likely 2016 presidential hopeful has ideological and personal motivations for his pro-embargo stance.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush: Opposed

What he said: “The beneficiaries of President Obama’s ill-advised move will be the heinous Castro brothers who have oppressed the Cuban people for decades.” (Facebook)

What it meant: A former Florida governor, Bush also has a long history of opposition to the Castro regime and he is sticking to his guns.

Sen. Ted Cruz: Opposed

What he said: “Fidel and Raul Castro have just received both international legitimacy and a badly-needed economic lifeline from President Obama. But they remain in control of a totalitarian police state modeled on their old state sponsor, the Soviet Union.” (Statement)

What it meant: Cruz is a Tea Party favorite who has staked out ideological territory on the far right of his party and been a consistent critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy.

Gov. Scott Walker: Opposed

What he said: “I think it’s a bad idea. I don’t think there’s been any noticeable change towards making that a more free and prosperous country. There’s a reason why we had the policy in the first place.” (Capital Times)

What it meant: As the governor of Wisconsin, Walker hasn’t had much reason to talk about Cuban policy in the past and has little incentive to break with the party on such a hot-button topic now.

Gov. Chris Christie: No Comment

What he said: Nothing, so far, though he talked at length about his encounters with Philadelphia Eagles fans at a recent football game in a radio interview Thursday morning.

What it meant: With some exceptions, Christie has mostly avoided talking about foreign policy, reflective of his role as governor and head of a group promoting Republican governors.

TIME Foreign Policy

America’s Uneasy Path Abroad in 2015

A U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment walks with his rifle, after returning from a mission at forward operating base Gamberi, in the Laghman province of Afghanistan
A U.S. soldier from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment walks with his rifle, after returning from a mission at forward operating base Gamberi, in the Laghman province of Afghanistan, Dec. 15, 2014. Lucas Jackson—Reuters

The U.S. is still the world’s leading economy, but its geopolitical clout isn’t what it used to be

America is not in decline. The U.S. will have the world’s most formidable military for the foreseeable future. Its economy remains the world’s largest, and its recovery will probably gather more steam in 2015. Its workforce is not aging nearly as quickly as that of Europe, Japan or China. No country has a greater capacity for technological innovation. Almost all the world’s biggest tech companies are based in the U.S. For next-generation cloud computing, artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing and nanotechnology, bet on the U.S. America has an entrepreneurial culture that celebrates not simply what has been accomplished but also what’s next. There is every reason to be confident that America has a bright 21st century future.

But its foreign policy is a different story. American power is on the wane, a process that will accelerate in 2015. Power is a measure of one’s ability to force others to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do, and there are now more governments with enough resources and self-confidence to shrug off requests and demands from Washington. There was never a golden age of U.S. power when an American President could count on other governments to do as he asked. But there are several reasons the U.S. is now less able to build coalitions, forge trade agreements, win support for sanctions, broker international compromise or persuade others to follow its lead into conflict than at any other time since the end of World War II.

First, there are a growing number of emerging powers that, although they can’t change the global status quo on their own, have more than enough power to ignore what America wants—and even to block U.S. plans they don’t like. For example, Washington can still tell governments of developing countries that access to capital from Western-dominated lending institutions like the IMF and the World Bank depends on democratic or free-market reforms. But the strongest emerging markets need capital less than they used to, and some of them are creating their own lending and investment institutions.

The BRICS countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—in 2014 launched a $50 billion development bank, an alternative to Washington-based lenders. The BRICS bank can’t by itself end U.S. dominance of the global financial system. But add the China Development Bank, the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) and an expanding list of important regional lending institutions, and the world’s borrowers are no longer quite so dependent on Western lenders. The numbers tell the story. In 2013 the World Bank disbursed $52.6 billion. The same year, Brazil’s BNDES invested $85 billion, and its Chinese equivalent extended loans valued at $240 billion.

While emerging powers awaken, Washington’s relations with its traditional allies are not what they used to be. It was inevitable that as the Cold War receded further into history, Americans and Europeans would have less in common. Both are unhappy with Vladimir Putin and his assault on Ukraine, but Russia is not the Soviet Union. It’s not a global military power. European nations have far more economic exposure to Russia than America does, and Washington needs Putin’s help to get things done in other regions, most notably in the Middle East. Though the U.S. and Europe have coordinated their sanctions on Russia so far, we’re more likely in 2015 to see disagreements over how best to handle Putin.

Nor has it helped transatlantic relations that the U.S. National Security Agency was reportedly listening to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls and collecting Internet data, raising fears across Europe that U.S. information-technology firms have given America’s spy agencies deep access to European secrets. Last February, Merkel took the extraordinary step of calling for a European Internet, one walled off from the U.S. So much for free movement through cyberspace.

Anti-American anger in many European countries—which rose sharply during the presidency of George W. Bush, then eased with the election of Barack Obama—was tested by the spy revelations. It will be tested again by the Senate’s recently released torture report, which embarrassed a number of European governments that reportedly provided “black sites”—secret U.S. prisons—for use by the CIA. This can only make it more difficult for the next U.S. President to win support from European leaders for anything that wary European voters might not like. The country’s relations with Britain will suffer in years to come as it becomes clear that the U.K. will sharply reduce the role it plays in Europe or exit the E.U. altogether. Britain has given Washington much of its influence inside the E.U., and a U.K. outside Europe would weaken the alliance.

It’s also inevitable that the rise of China will fray U.S. ties with allies in Asia as the governments of these countries hedge their bets on U.S. staying power in the region. An ally like Japan knows that Washington is now less likely to intervene in its security disputes because the American public won’t support a lasting U.S. commitment to solve what are perceived to be other people’s problems. A Pew Research poll conducted in late 2013 found that for the first time in the half-century that Americans have been asked this question, a majority of respondents said the U.S. “should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.” Just 38% disagreed. More recent polls tell the same story. In a democracy, no President can sustain an expensive, ambitious foreign policy without reliable public support. In the U.S., this support is no longer there, and the world knows it. Short of another large-scale terrorist attack on U.S. soil, it’s hard to imagine anything that can restore public appetite for a more assertive foreign policy anytime soon.

For all these reasons, the U.S. will exercise less power in the coming years in nearly every region of the world, and we can expect a de-Americanization of the international system. But there are other forces at work as well. Some countries will make a more determined move away from reliance on the dollar. As the world’s primary reserve currency, the dollar has served for decades as the vital asset for central banks and commercial transactions of all kinds. Dollar dominance offers the U.S. important advantages. Its stability ensures that the country remains the safest port in any storm, attracting investment that keeps U.S. interest rates relatively low, despite the expansion of the national debt. It helps U.S. companies avoid the transaction costs that come with currency conversion and allows Washington to pay its debts by simply printing more money.

But dollar dominance is on the wane as China, Russia, Brazil and others move to denominate more of their commerce in other currencies. Five years ago, China conducted trade almost entirely in dollars. Nearly a quarter of that trade is now settled in renminbi.

At the same time, China has announced the creation of an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, an institution that will not require borrowing nations to uphold the environmental and labor standards that are conditions of help from Western capitals. China has also created a $40 billion Silk Road Fund that is designed to extend Chinese commercial influence across South and Central Asia and into Europe. Those initiatives will give China greater market power—and therefore political influence—with the governments of partner countries and will help Beijing escape the dominance of U.S.-mandated rules and standards. In addition, Russia and China are now talking about creating their own ratings agency to further diminish Western influence in their economies.

The emergence of new lenders and investors provides autocratic governments access to cash without having to promise democratic reforms. But diminished influence abroad is only part of the story. For many emerging states, partisan paralysis in Washington makes democracy a less than appealing path toward development.

Nor will it be as easy for the U.S. to build greater support for market-driven capitalism, particularly as China continues to demonstrate the growth potential of the state-driven variety. In 2015 congressional opponents of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, an 80-year-old institution designed to enhance the market power of U.S. companies operating abroad, will finally have a golden opportunity to kill it. At the same time, though much has been made of China’s economic-reform process, changes to China’s economy have less to do with privatization and more with making China’s enormous state-owned companies work more effectively.

American prospects in the Middle East are not, for the moment, very encouraging. The Obama Administration’s bid to make a deal with Iran to scuttle its nuclear program leaves the Saudis worried that the U.S. will lift sanctions on Riyadh’s bitterest rival, shifting the region’s balance of power in Iran’s favor. The continued erosion of U.S.-Saudi ties will persuade the Saudi royal family to run a much more independent foreign policy than it used to. For example, though technically part of a U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, the Saudis are not working as hard as they could to track funding and arms that militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria receive as they work to destabilize Iraq and Bashar Assad’s Syria. Even in places where the U.S. and Saudis have shared interests, the two countries are no longer closely coordinating policies.

The most direct challenge will come from China. Washington is still working to solidify its long-term commercial and security interests in East Asia via the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a colossal U.S.-led trade deal involving a dozen countries on either side of the Pacific. For the moment, this is not a deal that will include China and its state-dominated economy. That’s why China is working on an enormous international trade deal of its own. At a regional summit meeting in November, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a road map for the creation of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). More than 20 countries have formally signaled interest in FTAAP membership. In fact, China—not America—is now the world’s lead trading nation. According to analysis by the Associated Press, in 2012 the U.S. was the largest trade partner for 76 countries, and communist China was the lead partner for 124.

The U.S. will remain the world’s most powerful nation for years to come, but that status doesn’t carry as much weight as it used to. Advantages enjoyed for decades are fading as new powers push for new rules and standards—in international politics, the global marketplace and online. Globalization will continue to spread new ideas, speed the flow of information, lift nations out of poverty and drive global consumption. But it’s less likely than before to promote American values and an American worldview.

Bremmer is president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy

Read next: Number of Uninsured Americans Near Historic Low

TIME Race

Poll: Obama’s Approval Rating Up Among Latinos

President Obama Makes Statement On U.S. Cuba Policy
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to the nation about normalizing diplomatic relations the Cuba in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Dec. 17, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Getty Images

Some 57% of Latinos now say they approve of the job that Obama is doing

President Barack Obama’s approval rating with Latinos has jumped 10 points since he announced a new policy of deportation relief for millions of undocumented immigrants, a new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll shows.

The new survey of 250 Latino adults shows that 57% now say they approve of the job that Obama is doing, compared with 47% of Latino voters who said the same in September, before the immigration announcement.

And, when asked if they approve of how Obama is handling the issue of immigration specifically, 56% give the president a thumbs up…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Foreign Policy

‘A Slap in the Face': Pilots’ Families Balk at Cuban Prisoner Swap

Cuba Releases Alan Gross, Held In Prison For 5 Years
People stand outside the Little Havana restaurant Versailles, as they absorb the news that Alan Gross was released from a Cuban prison and that U.S. President Barack Obama wants to change the United States Cuba policy on Dec. 17, 2014 in Miami, United States Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Cuban MiGs shot down their two small, private planes in February 1996

The South Florida families of pilots fatally shot down by Cuba in 1996 are speaking out against the Wednesday release of three members of the convicted spies known as the “Cuban Five” in a prisoner swap — among them one who had been convicted of conspiracy to commit murder over the shootdown.

“For the only person that we had responsible for what happened to be let go — it’s a slap in the face to my dad,” Marlene Alejandre-Triana said at a news conference.

Alejandre-Triana’s father Armando Alejandre, a Vietnam veteran, was one of four pilots killed when Cuban MiGs shot down their two small, private planes in February 1996 in international waters…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME intelligence

U.S. Sees North Korea as Culprit in Sony Hack

Fallout prompted studio to pull The Interview

American officials have determined the government of North Korea is connected to the hack that left Sony Entertainment Pictures reeling and eventually prompted it to pull a movie critical of the country’s leader, a U.S. official confirmed Wednesday.

Much remains unclear about the nature of North Korea’s involvement. The country, while lauding the hack against Sony, has denied being behind it. There were conflicting reports Wednesday evening, and officials are expected to unveil their findings Thursday. But the U.S. official confirmed to TIME that intelligence officials have indeed determined North Korea was behind the hack, one of the worst cyberattacks ever against an American company.

The New York Times, citing senior Obama Administration officials, reported that intelligence officials have determined North Korea was “centrally involved.” NBC News, also citing unnamed U.S. officials, reported that the Americans believe the hacking came from outside North Korea itself, but that the hackers were acting on orders from Pyongyang.

MORE: The 7 most outrageous things we learned from the Sony hack

The hack exposed reams of company data, including employees’ emails and salaries. A group calling itself the Guardians of Peace claimed credit. And analysts have speculated North Korea was behind an attack that came before the scheduled release of The Interview, a Sony movie that depicts American journalists enlisted by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (North Korean officials have criticized the movie.) Threats of 9/11-style attacks against theaters that show the movie led many theaters to say this week that they wouldn’t screen it, which prompted Sony to cancel the scheduled Christmas Day release altogether.

“We are deeply saddened by this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees and the American public,” Sony said in a statement. “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome.”

In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, President Barack Obama called the hack against Sony “very serious,” but suggested authorities have yet to find any credibility in the threat of attacks against theaters.

“For now, my recommendation would be that people go to the movies,” Obama said.

TIME Foreign Policy

How Pope Francis Helped Broker Cuba Deal

Pope Attends His Weekly Audience In St. Peter's Square
Pope Francis on Dec. 3, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. Franco Origlia—Getty Images

President Obama thanked Pope Francis for his role in negotiating a more open policy on Cuba and the release of U.S. citizen Alan Gross from Cuban custody.

In a 15-minute speech announcing that the U.S. would normalize relations with Cuba, Obama said that the pope helped spur the change and personally thanked him. The Vatican then released a statement noting that the Vatican hosted delegations from both countries in October to negotiate the deal after Pope Francis had written to both leaders.

A senior administration official said that the appeal from the Pope was “very rare” and unprecedented.

“Pope Francis personally issued an appeal in a letter that he sent to President Obama and to President Raul Castro calling on them to resolve the case of Alan Gross and the cases of the three Cubans who have been imprisoned here in the United States and also encouraging the United States and Cuba to pursue a closer relationship,” said the official. “The Vatican then hosted the US and Cuban delegations where we were able to review the commitments that we are making today.”

American officials have also noted Francis’ deep familiarity with the Americas, being the first pope from the continent. The letter from Pope Francis “gave us greater impetus and momentum for us to move forward,” a white House official said. “Cuba was a topic of discussion that got as much attention as anything else the two of them discuss.”

The move is perhaps Pope Francis’ boldest foreign policy move yet, but it is not his first.

• He showed letter-writing prowess in September 2013, when he wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin, host of the G-20 Summit which Obama was attending, urging world leaders and the United States to oppose a military intervention in Syria.

• After visiting Bethlehem and Jerusalem in May, Pope Francis hosted both Israeli president Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican for a joint prayer service for Middle East Peace.

• When he visited South Korea in August, he sent a telegram to Chinese President Xi Jinping when the papal plane crossed into Chinese airspace—a historic step toward improved relations since the last time a pope visited East Asia, Chinese officials did not allow the plane to fly over Chinese territory.

When it comes to Cuba, Pope Francis is continuing the work of his predecessors. Just over half the Cuban population is Catholic, according to the Pew Research Center, and the Vatican stepped up its relations with the country over the past two decades. In 1998, Pope John Paul II became the first pope to visit Cuba. Pope Benedict XVI visited Cuba in 2012. At an outdoor mass, he urged Cuba to “build a renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity and which better reflects the goodness of God.”

The announcement of the Vatican’s role in the U.S.-Cuba negotiations is particularly noteworthy as Pope Francis plans his first trip to the United States in September 2015. The Vatican has not said whether or not Pope Francis will travel to Cuba or other US cities on that trip.

TIME 2016 Election

Why Democrats Changed Their Minds on Cuba

It used to be that national politicians of both parties would diligently travel to Florida during every election cycle and compete, in speeches and town hall meetings, over who could be more in favor of the embargo on Cuba.

It was, after all, common political sense: Cuban-Americans were, for decades, a fairly monolithic voting bloc and their feelings toward the embargo were unequivocal. They were for it. No ifs, ands, or maybes.

But in the last decade, all that has changed. The reason is shifting demographics—the same trend that rocketed President Obama to the White House in 2008 and 2012 and that will do more to influence the outcome of 2016 than perhaps anything else.

Younger Cuban-Americans are less into the embargo than their parents’ generation, and much more in favor of relaxing laws to make it easier to travel and trade with the island.

This shifting dynamic is going to play out in 2016, too. In fact, it already has. Jeb Bush, who announced yesterday that he is considering a run for the White House, takes the old-school hardline position. He’s in favor of the embargo, full stop.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s position has evolved over the years. In 2000, when she was running for Senate, and in 2008, when she was running for the Democratic nomination, she too took the old-school stance. In December 2007, she said rather clearly that the embargo was the law of the land, and it wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

“Until there is some recognition on the part of whoever is in charge of the Cuban government that they have to move toward democracy and freedom for the Cuban people, it will be very difficult for us to change our policy,” she said.

But then, as Secretary of State, her position began to crack, and then soften, and then flip entirely. She called on Obama to take a second look at the embargo, which she argued was actually helping Fidel and Raul Castro, not Americans. “It is my personal belief that the Castros do not want to see an end to the embargo and do not want to see normalization with the United States, because they would lose all of their excuses for what hasn’t happened in Cuba in the last 50 years,” she said in a 2010 speech in Kentucky.

And in her 2014 book, Hard Choices, she backs up that view: “I recommended to President Obama that he take another look at our embargo. It wasn’t achieving its goals, and it was holding back our broader agenda across Latin America.” In July this year, in an interview, she came right out and called the embargo “a failure.”

Jeb Bush’s hardline position and Hillary Clinton’s evolving one is a reflection of the larger demographic shifts happening the U.S. today.

Bush, if he runs, will no doubt lock down the older, more conservative Cuban-American vote, while Clinton, if she runs, will be in a position to lock down the younger, hipper, more liberal Cuban-American contingent.

So who wins? Right now, it’s a toss up. According to a 2014 poll by the Cuban Research Institute, 53 percent of Cuban-American registered voters said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who backed the normalization of diplomatic relations. But if you bore down a bit on the issues, it seems to lean heavily toward the Democrats: 90% of young Cuban-Americans are in favor of reestablishing diplomatic ties with Cuba; 68% of older Cuban-Americans share that view too.

But it doesn’t have to be a huge majority for it to make sense to Democrats to change positions. It just has to be more competitive than it used to be, and it now is.

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