Barack Obama has made an unprecedented announcement following Cuba’s release of American Alan Gross, who has been held in a prison in Cuba for five years, accused of being a spy. The release came as the result of a swap, in which the United States also released three Cuban citizens who had been held jailed in Florida.
The AP reports that the Obama regime has been in secret talks with Raul Castro’s regime in Cuba for over a year. These meetings took place in both Canada and the Vatican with Pope Francis getting involved personally. Following the announcement of the normalization of Cuba-U.S. relations, Pope Francis praised the decision. In an official statement from the Vatican, Pope Francis said that he “wishes to express his warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations, with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history.”Obama called the economic sanctions and travel restrictions in regards to Cuba “outdated” and said it was time to take a new approach. The AP details some of Obama’s changes in policy towards Cuba.
As part of resuming diplomatic relations with Cuba, the U.S. will soon reopen an embassy in the capital of Havana and carry out high-level exchanges and visits between the governments. The U.S. is also easing travel bans to Cuba, including for family visits, official U.S. government business and educational activities. Tourist travel remains banned.Florida Senator Marco Rubio, during an appearance on Fox News after the announcement, had harsh words for Obama’s executive action in normalizing these relations stating that believes it puts American lives in danger. While he is glad that Gross is home safely, Senator Rubio said, “Governments now know that if they can take an American hostage, they can get very significant concessions from the United States.”
Licensed American travelers to Cuba will now be able to return to the U.S. with $400 in Cuban goods, including tobacco and alcohol products worth less than $100 combined. This means the long-standing ban on importing Cuban cigars is over, although there are still limits.
The U.S. is also increasing the amount of money Americans can send to Cubans from $500 to $2,000 every three months. Early in his presidency, Obama allowed unlimited family visits by Cuban-Americans and removed a $1,200 annual cap on remittances. Kerry is also launching a review of Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terror.
Rubio continued, “My interest in Cuba has always been the furthering of democracy and freedom. I think the people of Cuba have the right, if they are free, to choose any economic situation they want. Nothing the president is going to announce today is going to further that goal.
He continued by calling out the absurd hypocrisy of Obama’s actions towards Cuba a week after imposing sanctions on Venezuela, a country also known to be violators of human rights. He contended, “And it’s ironic, that a week after we imposed sanctions on human rights violators in Venezuela, we are lifting sanctions on the government that has taught the Venezuelans how to commit these human rights violations. It’s absurd. And it’s part of the long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this administration has established.”
The president can both increase the amount of money that Americans can sent to Cuba and help U.S. telecommunications companies do business in the communist country. That is not the issue, according to Rubio, as he can do both legally. He, however, address the problem he did have.
“The problem I have is not those measures. The problem is that in return, the the Cubans have agreed to do things like release political prisoners and allow more Internet access on the Island. But they’re creating no economic openings, there is no concessions on freedom of speech, no concessions on elections, no concessions on the freedom to have alternative political parties; no concessions on ever having elections or anything of that matter…and this notion that somehow being able to travel more to Cuba and send more money to Cuba and sell more consumer products in Cuba — the idea that that is going to lead to some democratic openings is absurd, but it is 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. And that’s what’s happening here.”
Senator Rubio asserted that Obama is the worst negotiator since Jimmy Carter, and likely in history, whose actions are counterproductive to democracy in the region as well as naive.