House Speaker John Boehner slammed President Barack Obama's major policy shift on Cuba after more than 50 years, calling it "another in a long line of mindless concessions" to a brutal dictatorship.
"Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom - and not one second sooner," Boehner said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Boehner was among many Republicans, who condemned Obama’s announcement on Wednesday that the U.S. was moving towards normalizing diplomatic relations
with the communist dictatorship, saying it is time to "cut loose the shackles of the past."
Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, issued a statement, blasting the release of American aid worker Alan Gross from Cuba in exchange for three Cuban spies.
She said, “Although the freedom of Alan Gross is welcome news, it’s important to remember that Mr. Gross should have never been imprisoned in Cuba by the Castro regime in the first place.
“The manner in which the White House has negotiated this prisoner swap is a slap in the face to the families of the Brothers to the Rescue and poses a threat to our national security.
“President Obama has unilaterally released three convicted Cuban spies who were responsible for the deaths of three American citizens and one U.S. resident… whose planes were unjustly shot down over international waters on direct orders of the Castro brothers.
Ros-Lehtinen also attacked Obama’s plan to loosen the trade embargo and other sanctions against the U.S. neighbor.
“The liberalization policies aimed at easing trade and remittances to Cuba is another propaganda coup for the Castro brothers, who will now fill their coffers with more money at the expense of the Cuban people.”
“This misguided action by President Obama will embolden the Castro regime to continue its illicit activities, trample on fundamental freedoms, and disregard democratic principles.”
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants and a possible presidential contender in 2016, also ripped into Obama’s softening stance
“It’s part of a long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this administration has established,” Rubio said on Fox News, while noting that a loosening of the long-term economic sanctions against Cuba and opening an embassy in Havana will not lead to more freedom or democracy in the island nation.
“This notion that somehow being able to travel more to Cuba, to sell more consumer products, the idea that’s going to lead to some democratic opening is absurd,” Rubio said. “But it’s par for the course with this administration constantly giving away unilateral concessions…in exchange for nothing.”
Calling Obama the “Appeaser-in-Chief,” Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said that the president’s decision “to allow the Castro regime to blackmail the United States and abandon our pro-democracy principles is an outrage.”
In a statement, he added, “These changes to policy will further embolden the Cuban dictatorship to continue brutalizing and oppressing its own people as well as other anti-American dictatorship and terrorist organizations.”
According to Politico, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina sent out a tweet saying that having an embassy in Cuba is “an incredibly bad idea.”
He added later: “I will do all in my power to block the use of funds to open an embassy in Cuba. Normalizing relations with Cuba is bad idea at a bad time.”
Incoming Rep. Carlos Curbelo, also of Florida, also denounced the idea of normalizing relations with Cuba, saying it was “reckless conduct that damages U.S. national security and benefits Cuba’s dictators.”
However, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and likely 2016 presidential candidate, said that he was “delighted” that Gross was being released, calling it “spectacular news for himself and his family.”
He added that he planned to comment later on Wednesday about the wider scope of Obama’s plans to ease the embargo on Cuba.
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