Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio blasted President Barack Obama as the "worst negotiator" and "naïve" for the manner in which he brokered the release of an American who had been held captive in Cuba since 2009.
U.S. aid worker Alan Gross, held in a Cuban prison for five years, was released Wednesday in exchange for three Cubans imprisoned in the United States. Obama also announced Wednesday a shift in diplomatic policy between the U.S. and Cuba, easing an embargo that's lasted more than 50 years.
"Barack Obama is the worst negotiator that we've had as president since, at least, [former President] Jimmy Carter, and, maybe, in the modern history of this country," Rubio told Fox News' "America's Newsroom" on Wednesday. "His foreign policy is, at a minimum, naïve, and, perhaps, even truly, truly counterproductive to the future of democracy in the region."
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Rubio, a son of Cuban immigrants, said the swap sent the wrong message to tyrants around the world that "the U.S. can be had, that it's a pretty easy deal," adding the action "puts a price on every American abroad."
"I'm not in favor of the process by which his release was acquired, because I think it does set a very dangerous precedent," Rubio said. "Governments now know that if they can take an American hostage, they can get very significant concessions from the United States."
Should Obama announce an intent to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, Rubio explained, nothing he said would "further that goal," adding that the issue was an example of the administration's inclination to negotiate with oppressive regimes.
"It's absurd, and it's part of a long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this administration has established.
"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," he said.
A major problem in the agreement was that Cuba would benefit from a new U.S. policy without offering any human-rights concessions, he said.
"They're creating no economic openings, 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.
"This notion 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 opening is absurd," he said.
Rubio maintained he was pleased that Gross would be released from captivity, but stressed he never should have been arrested.
"He never did anything wrong. He was not a spy. He was not a criminal. He was a hostage, and it's unfortunate that the Cuban government held him for five years, and, basically, almost killed him in captivity," Rubio said.
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