Bob Menendez grew up the son of immigrants in a tenement building in Union City. A product of New Jersey's public schools and a graduate of the state's universities, he has served as a school board member, a mayor and a state legislator. Since 1992, he has been fighting for New Jersey families in Washington, where he rose to become the third-highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives before taking office in the Senate in 2006.
In Congress, he has fought to make health care more affordable for New Jersey's families and to improve schools so they prepare our children for a successful future. Now he is fighting to make college more affordable for the next generation of leaders. After September 11, 2001, Bob earned national recognition for his leadership in reforming the country's intelligence and public health systems and for fighting to establish an independent commission to investigate the terrorist attacks on our country. Today, he is working to improve the security of our bus, rail and public transit systems.
Elected by his colleagues in 2002 as the Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Bob Menendez became the highest-ranking Hispanic in Congressional history. He previously served as the Vice Chairman of the Democratic Caucus and has led key Task Forces on Education and Homeland Security. After being appointed by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, Bob was sworn in to the Senate on January 18, 2006. In November of that year, New Jerseyans elected Bob to serve a full six-year term as United States Senator. He currently serves on the Senate Committees on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; Energy and Natural Resources; Budget; and Foreign Relations. Bob is also the Chairman of the Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection.
Question: Will Fidel Castro’s death bring change to Cuba?
Robert Menendez: Well I don’t think that that act alone will change Cuba. Certainly Fidel Castro will be the end of the dictatorship of one person, but that does not guarantee democracy on the flip side. I do believe that when Fidel Castro meets his maker, that ultimately the question is, “How does change take place?” I don’t believe that Raul Castro has a relationship with the Cuban people that Fidel Castro had, which was both a love-hate relationship. And I believe that he will not be able to continue to be the next dictator because the Cuban people, in that human spirit that we talked about earlier more generally, desire the fundamental things that any human being on the face of the earth desire. That individual freedom; the opportunity to worship at the altar that they choose; the opportunity to fulfill their God-given potential without being told by the state what their potential is; the opportunity to prosper by the sweat of their own brow; the opportunity to choose those who govern them. And so that and so much more that is pent up within Cuban society, I don’t think will allow Fidel Castro’s brother Raul to stay in power long. But I just don’t simply think that the death of Fidel Castro, whenever that takes place, automatically means democracy or respect of human rights of the Cuban people. That still will be a work in progress.
Recorded on: 9/12/07