December 17, 2014
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) harshly criticized President Obama for agreeing to exchange Cuban spies for an American imprisoned in Cuba, calling his foreign policy “naïve” and “truly counterproductive for the future of democracy in the region.”
“All of these tyrants around the world know that the U.S. can be had, that it’s a pretty easy deal,” he said on Fox News Channel’s “America’s Newsroom."
“At minimum, Barack Obama is the worst negotiator that we’ve had as president since at least Jimmy Carter, and maybe in the modern history of the country.”
Those sentiments came on top of a statement released by Rubio’s office in which he asserted that “America will be less safe as a result of the president’s change in policy.”
Rubio’s parents fled Cuba in the 1950s, as Fidel Castro rose to power and started clamping down on political opponents. The senator said that, while he’s happy American aid worker Alan Gross will return to his family, he believes that the move “puts a price on every American abroad.”
“Governments now know that, if they can take an American hostage, they can get very significant concessions from the United States,” he said.
“It’s par for the course with an administration that is constantly giving away unilateral concessions, whether it’s Iran or, in this case Cuba, in exchange for nothing.”
The Cuban government freed American aid worker Alan Gross Wednesday morning in an exchange involving three Cuban prisoners held in the United States.
Those prisoners were part of the “Cuban Five,” a group of Cuban spies who have been serving time in American prisons since their conviction in 2001.
On top of the exchange, the president is expected to announce steps to normalize full diplomatic relations with Cuba. Rubio said he expects those steps to include opening trade and travel between the countries, as well as increasing diplomatic communications, as the administration hopes to inspire democracy.
American-Cuban relations have been tense since the U.S. instituted an embargo in 1960, as Cold War tensions with Communist countries heightened.
“Nothing the president will announce today will further that goal,” Rubio said on the possibility of Cuba becoming more democratic.
“They are creating no economic openings, no concessions on freedom of speech, no concessions on elections.”
In the statement released by his office, Rubio added that as incoming chairman of a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee, he will “make every effort to block this dangerous and desperate attempt by the president to burnish his legacy at the Cuban people’s expense.”
Rubio said later Wednesday morning on CNN’s “This Hour” that the current embargo can be leverage for the United States to help influence democratic changes in a new government after current President Raúl Castro, who is 83-years-old, passes away. He added that easing restrictions on Cuba now hurts that long-term strategy.
“When has tourism ever brought about democracy?” he said on CNN. “This government controls every aspect of life in Cuba. Every single policy change the U.S. has ever made towards Cuba, whether it’s more travel, more person to person contact, more remittances, they have manipulated every single one of them and they will manipulate this as well."
"They will use all of these changes to their advantage, they will never allow any of these changes to undermine their grip on the island.”
A Victory for Oppression
President Obama’s policy is bad news for the Cuban people living under a dictatorship, and it sends a dangerous message to the world.
By Marco Rubio
December 17, 2014Wall Street Journal
The announcement by President Obama on Wednesday giving the Castro regime diplomatic legitimacy and access to American dollars isn’t just bad for the oppressed Cuban people, or for the millions who live in exile and lost everything at the hands of the dictatorship. Mr. Obama’s new Cuba policy is a victory for oppressive governments the world over and will have real, negative consequences for the American people.
Since the U.S. severed diplomatic relations in 1961, the Castro family has controlled the country and the economy with an iron fist that punishes Cubans who speak out in opposition and demand a better future. Under the Castros, Cuba has also been a central figure in terrorism, narco-trafficking and all manner of misery and mayhem in our hemisphere.
As a result, it has been the policy and law of the U.S. to make clear that re-establishing diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba is possible—but only once the Cuban government stops jailing political opponents, protects free speech, and allows independent political parties to be formed and to participate in free and fair elections.
The opportunity for Cuba to normalize relations with the U.S. has always been there, but the Castro regime has never been interested in changing its ways. Now, thanks to President Obama’s concessions, the regime in Cuba won’t have to change.
The entire policy shift is based on the illusion—in fact, on the lie—that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people. Cuba already enjoys access to commerce, money and goods from other nations, and yet the Cuban people are still not free. They are not free because the regime—just as it does with every aspect of life—manipulates and controls to its own advantage all currency that flows into the island. More economic engagement with the U.S. means that the regime’s grip on power will be strengthened for decades to come—dashing the Cuban people’s hopes for freedom and democracy.
Of course, like all Americans, I am overjoyed for Alan Gross and his family after his release from captivity after five years. This American had been a hostage of the regime, and it was through his imprisonment that the Cuban regime again showed the world its cruel nature.
But the policy changes announced by President Obama will have far-reaching consequences for the American people. President Obama made it clear that if you take an American hostage and are willing to hold him long enough, you may not only get your own prisoners released from U.S. jails—as three Cuban spies were—you may actually win lasting policy concessions from the U.S. as well. This precedent places a new price on the head of every American, and it gives rogue leaders around the world more clear-cut evidence of this president’s naïveté and his willingness to abandon fundamental principles in a desperate attempt to burnish his legacy. There can be no doubt that the regime in Tehran is watching closely, and it will try to exploit President Obama’s naïveté as the Iranian leaders pursue concessions from the U.S. in their quest to establish themselves as a nuclear power.
Reasonable people can disagree about the efficacy of American foreign policy toward Cuba and even the embargo, but no serious person can argue that the manner in which President Obama unilaterally granted concessions to the regime in Havana was well advised.
For these reasons and many more, in the weeks and months ahead I will work with Republicans and Democrats who share my concerns and do everything in my power to prevent President Obama’s dangerous policies from becoming reality.
While my personal ties to Cuba and its people are well known, this is not just a personal issue. American foreign policy affects every aspect of American life, and our people cannot realize their full promise if the world becomes more dangerous because America retreats from its role in the world. Moreover, the Cuban people have the same rights that God bestowed on every other man, woman and child that has ever lived. All of those who are oppressed around the world look to America to stand up for their rights and to raise its voice when tyrants like the Castros are trying to crush their spirits.
By conceding to the oppressors in the Castro regime, this president and his administration have let the Cuban people down, further weakened America’s standing in the world and endangered Americans.
Mr. Rubio, a Republican, is a member of the U.S. Senate from Florida.