Angry Marco Rubio Blasts Harkin for Praising Cuba

Thursday, 27 Feb 2014 10:28 AM

By Courtney Coren

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Republican Sen. Marco Rubio gave a scathing response on life in Cuba on the Senate floor after Sen. Tom Harkin praised the communist regime following a recent visit there.

Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, visited Cuba for a week and returned with praise for the healthcare system, the infant mortality rate, the literacy rate there and baseball, among other things, which Rubio characterized as naive.

"I heard him also talk about these great doctors that they have in Cuba, and I have no doubt they're very talented; I've met a bunch of them," the Florida Republican said. "You know where I met them? In the United States, because they defected. Because, in Cuba, doctors would rather drive a taxicab or work in a hotel than be a doctor."

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Rubio also addressed Cuba's "wonderful" literacy rate.

"Here's the problem," Rubio said. "They can only read censored stuff. They're not allowed access to the Internet ... It's great to have literacy, but if you don't have access to the information, what's the point of it?"

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Rubio, whose parents are Cuban immigrants, also detailed Cuba's ties with terrorist nations and dictatorships around the world, including aid that it has offered to North Korea.

"Let me tell you what Cubans are really good at," Rubio continued. "What they're really good at is repression. What they're really good at is shutting off information to the Internet, and to radio and to television and social media ... And they're not just good at it domestically, they're good exporters of these things."

Rubio then described Cuba's ties and influence it has had on the protests currently going on in Venezuela, describing the officials there as "puppets of Havana, completely infiltrated by Cubans."

With the help of an aide, Rubio presented slides taken from the Venezuelan streets of government protestors being arrested, shot, and hit with water cannons, "because they are protesting the government."

"This is the government that the Cubans support, not just verbally, not just emotionally, but with training and tactics," he explained. "This is what they export ... Raul Castro announced that he's there to help them do whatever they need to help them do this."

Rubio continued to question the picture that Harkin painted of "what a paradise Cuba is."

"How come I never read about boatloads of refugees going to Cuba? Why have close to one and a half million people left Cuba to come here, but the only ones who leave here to move there are fugitives from the law and people who steal money from Medicare?"

Rubio referenced a poll that Harkin cited that "more Americans want normal relations with Cuba. So do I — a democratic and free Cuba."

"But you want us to reach out and develop friendly relationships with a serial violator of human rights, who supports what's going on in Venezuela and every other atrocities on the planet? On issue after issue, they are always on the side of the tyrants ... And this is who we should be opening up to — why don't they change?"

Rubio said he plans to present a measure to pursue sanctions against Venezuela.

"We, as the freest nation on earth, are looked to by people in [Venezuela] to stand by them in their moment of need, when they clamor for freedom and liberty and human rights. They look for America to be on their side," he said.

"I would suggest to my colleagues, the next time they go to Cuba, ask to meet with the Ladies in White. Ask to meet with Yoani Sanchez. Ask to meet with the dissidents and the human rights activists that are jailed and repressed and exiled," Rubio concluded. "Ask to meet with them. I bet you're going to hear something very different than what you got from your hosts on your last trip to the wonderful Cuba, this extraordinary socialist paradise. Because it's a joke. It's a farce."

Conservative opinion writer Peggy Noonan called Rubio's speech "a great, myth-destroying statement." And The Miami Herald said it was "the best oration of his political career."

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