Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told Newsmax that President Barack Obama's handshake Tuesday with Cuban dictator Raul Castro was "nauseating."
The handshake occurred as Obama and other world leaders attended the funeral of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa. It's believed to be the first between the leaders of the United States and the island nation since Bill Clinton shook Fidel Castro's hand in 2000 during a United Nations event.
"I came here when I was a small child with my family fleeing the aggression of the communist tyranny in Cuba, and to see the president of the United States shake hands with a sadistic murderer, which is what Raul Castro is and what he represents, it is nauseating," the Cuban-born Republican said.
Ros-Lehtinen told Newsmax TV reporter John Bachman she spoke with Secretary of State John Kerry about the handshake and said, "Sometimes a handshake is just a handshake, but when the leader of the free world shakes the bloody hand of a ruthless dictator like Raul Castro, it becomes a propaganda coup for the tyrant. Raul Castro uses that hand to sign orders to repress and jail democracy advocates, and I pointed out what an irony it is that today is International Human Rights Day…."
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She predicted Castro, the younger brother of the longtime leader, will publicize the photos with Obama in the state-run media and is concerned about a policy shift that could be similar to the one the United States hammered out with Iran over the Middle East country's nuclear program.
"…I asked Secretary Kerry to make it clear to the world that U.S. policy toward this cruel and sadistic dictatorship is not going to be changing because of a handshake because we need to get the message of hope to the opposition leaders, which there are many, in Cuba," Ros-Lehtinen said. She also questioned why Obama extended his hand to Castro.
"You can casually ignore someone but look, I'm not going to make more of it than it is," Ros-Lehtinen told Newsmax. "Maybe it was just protocol and things that happen. What I want to make sure is that there's going to be no change in U.S. policy, because I worry about that more than I do about a handshake because we've seen a change in U.S. policy toward Iran…"
Bachman then asked the congresswoman whether Kerry will be able to convince Sen. Bob Menendez and others on Capitol Hill that additional Iranian sanctions are not the answer to a nonproliferation treaty.
"I don't think that he's going to be successful, but it is going to be difficult to pass these new sanctions," the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia said. "We passed them in the House, they're pending in the Senate, and the power of one senator, Harry Reid, is stomping at his – the rules are so different there."
She described the deal reached in Geneva not only as "bad" but also as "the death knell of our sanctions policy."
"It threatens our closest ally, the democratic Jewish state of Israel, and we're accepting Iran's illegitimate claim to a right to enrich," Ros-Lehtinen said. "We say, 'Oh, no, they don't have that right.' But Iran says, 'Hey, this deal gives us this right. And that's why we were so eager to sign it.'
"So that's what's going to happen," she continued. "We set the bar so low. It's lower than U.S. law. It's lower than the U.N. Security Council resolutions." She said the White House is fooling itself into thinking the deal will lead to a nuclear-free Iran when the opposite is true.
"Well, Iranians have nothing to lose with continuing to negotiate because they're negotiating from strength, and we're negotiating from weakness," Ros-Lehtinen said.
"And when Secretary Kerry says these sanctions have worked because it's brought Iranians to the negotiation table, that's never been the case of why we had sanctions. We had sanctions to cripple the Iranian economy and to force Iran to abandon its nuclear capability. They weren't set up so that they could negotiate with us. They weren't a negotiating tool. It was to dismantle everything and weaken this dictatorship."
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