Some Republican leaders are sharply criticizing the Obama administration for establishing official diplomatic ties with Cuba, the Caribbean island nation that has been under the control of Communist dictator Fidel Castro and his brother Raul since 1959. A number of GOP presidential candidates and the speaker of the House of Representatives have noted the continued oppression of the Cuban people under the Castros.
Obama announced Wednesday that the United States had reached a deal with the Castro regime that will see a reestablishment of full diplomatic relations with Cuba. "This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize our relationship with the Cuban government and people," Obama said in a statement outside the White House. "There have been very real, profound differences between our governments, and sometimes we allow ourselves to be trapped by a certain way of doing things. For the United States, that meant clinging to a policy that was not working. Instead of supporting democracy and opportunity for the Cuban people, our efforts to isolate Cuba, despite our good intentions, had the opposite effect."
Marco Rubio, a Florida senator and son of Cuban exiles, had a statement early Wednesday morning condemning the new policy. “Throughout this entire negotiation, as the Castro regime has stepped up its repression of the Cuban people, the Obama Administration has continued to look the other way and offer concession after concession," said Rubio, a Republican presidential candidate. "The administration's reported plan to restore diplomatic relations is one such prized concession to the Castro regime. It remains unclear what, if anything, has been achieved since the President's December 17th announcement in terms of securing the return of U.S. fugitives being harbored in Cuba, settling outstanding legal claims to U.S. citizens for properties confiscated by the regime, and in obtaining the unequivocal right of our diplomats to travel freely throughout Cuba and meet with any dissidents, and most importantly, securing greater political freedoms for the Cuban people." Rubio added he would oppose the nomination of a U.S. ambassador to Cuba.
“The reopening of U.S. and Cuban embassies is the latest step in President Obama’s normalization of relations with the Castro regime, and the most recent example of this president’s foreign policy that ignores reality in exchange for surface level political 'wins,'" said former Texas governor Rick Perry, another GOP presidential candidate. "There is no indication that further normalization will do anything to actually liberate the Cuban people or advance American interests."
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush also weighed in, saying he opposes the announced deal as a "further embrace [of] the Castro regime" in Havana. "The real test of the Obama Administration’s rapprochement with the Castro regime in Cuba is not whether President Obama’s legacy is burnished with dubious diplomatic achievements and photo-ops, but whether improved relations between Havana and Washington advance the cause of human rights and freedom for the Cuban people," said Bush. "The ongoing detention of dissidents and continued human rights abuses suggest the Administration’s policy is failing this test."
House speaker John Boehner also blasted the decision. “The Obama administration is handing the Castros a lifetime dream of legitimacy without getting a thing for the Cuban people being oppressed by this brutal communist dictatorship," Boehner said in a statement. "As I’ve said before, relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until Cubans enjoy freedom – and not one second sooner.”
Hillary Clinton, Obama's former secretary of state and the leading Democratic candidate for president, reiterated her support for the policy on Twitter Wednesday morning:
New US Embassy in Havana helps us engage Cuban people & build on efforts to support positive change. Good step for US & Cuban people. -H
The embargo imposed on Cuba by the United States remains in place unless Congress repeals it, which Obama has asked it to do. The Castro government, Reuters reports, had included in its demands during the recent negotiations that the U.S. return its naval base at Guantanamo Bay to Cuba.
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