Rubio Criticizes Obama’s SOTU Call to End Cuba Embargo
The president’s call to end the embargo with Cuba met criticism from
By Tom Risen Jan. 21, 2015 | 3:40 p.m. EST + More
President Barack Obama called for Congress to end the U.S. embargo
against Cuba during his State of the Union speech, but prominent
Cuban-American lawmakers like Sen. Marco Rubio remain skeptical that
opening trade with the island would promote democratic values there.
Obama in December announced the U.S. would normalize diplomatic
relations with Cuba, drawing criticism from both Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen.
Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who argued the move would enable the survival
of the island’s dictatorship, led by Raul Castro. Neither of the top
Cuban-American lawmakers applauded when Obama spoke about his plans for
Cuba on Tuesday — and the Republicans seated in the House chamber were
also silent during that part of the speech.
“Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust
in our hemisphere, removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba,
stands up for democratic values and extends the hand of friendship to
the Cuban people,” Obama said in his speech. “And this year, Congress
should begin the work of ending the embargo.”
Cuban officials on Wednesday in Havana began the first of several
diplomatic talks — the first since 1961 — by meeting with Roberta
Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.
Rubio told U.S. News after the address that he is not optimistic that
more U.S. business in Cuba has the potential to undermine the Castro
regime by exposing its people to more Western goods and media.
“I don’t know of a single contemporary, reluctant tyranny that has
become a democracy because of more trade and tourists,” Rubio says.
“China is now the world’s richest tyranny, Vietnam continues to be a
communist tyranny. And [Myanmar] Burma, even though they actually agreed
to some democratic openings when the U.S. recognized them
diplomatically, they have actually begun to take back a lot of those
First l?ady Michelle Obama helped boost her husband’s Cuba policy by
sitting during the speech with Alan Gross, a U.S. Agency for
International Development contractor who was accused of being a spy
while working in Cuba?,? imprisoned there for five years and recently
freed as part of Obama’s deal with Castro. Rubio made his own statement
on Cuba by inviting the daughter of an anti-Castro activist who was
critical of Obama’s plans? as his guest for the speech Tuesday.?
Trade with the U.S. should be used as an incentive for repressive
governments to institute human rights reforms, Rep. Gerry Connolly,
D-Va., says. While Connolly supports normalizing relations with Cuba —
noting that the U.S. recognized the Soviet Union during the Cold War —
the member of the House Committee on Foreign Relations adds that Obama
should have pushed Castro for more democratic reforms before announcing
his plan to open diplomacy and trade with the island.
Pope Francis played a large role brokering the diplomacy between Havana
and Washington, so Connolly hopes the pontiff will discuss the Cuba
issue when he addresses Congress in late September, as first reported by
Catholic News Agency. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports normalizing
relations with Cuba because of its potential to increase trade and
Cubans born in the U.S. are more supportive of Obama’s plans compared
with those who emigrated from the island, according to a poll conducted
by Bendixen & Amandi International and published in the Miami Herald. A
63 percent majority of Cubans born in the U.S. would end the embargo,
while only 38 percent of immigrant Cuban-Americans support lifting it,
according to the poll. Menendez and Rubio were both born in America.
Source: Rubio Criticizes Obama’s SOTU Call to End Cuba Embargo – US News