Tags: Marco Rubio | Alan Gross | State of the Union | Cuba

Rubio Invites Cuban Dissident's Daughter to Obama Address

Monday, 19 January 2015 02:21 PM

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is bringing a Cuban activist to the State of the Union address Tuesday night in an attempt to counter first lady Michelle Obama bringing freed American contractor Alan Gross as her guest, according to CNN.

Gross was released from Cuba last month after serving five years in jail for attempting to undermine the government by distributing communications equipment to the country's small Jewish community.

His freedom came as part of a deal President Barack Obama made with the Havana government to ease sanctions against the communist regime and renew diplomatic relations after 50 years of discord.

Gross and his wife Judy were invited to listen to Obama's speech in the first lady's box, along with nearly two dozen others, according to reports.

"For five years, from thousands of miles away, Judy fought every day for Alan's release and never gave up hope," said the White House, which traditionally invites special guests the president can single out for mention during his speech.

But Rubio, who has attacked Obama's plan to normalize relations with Cuba, is bringing his own guest to show his support for political dissidents in the island nation.

The Republican senator will host Cuban activist Rosa María Paya, the daughter of prominent Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya who was killed in a 2012 car crash that she claims was a government assassination, according to CNN.

"In his remarks, I expect the president will bring up his new Cuba policy," said Rubio, a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2016.

"While I disagree with the president's new Cuba policy, I hope Rosa María Paya's presence on Tuesday night will at least remind him that her father's murderers have not been brought to justice, and that the U.S. is now, in fact, sitting at the table with them."

In a recent letter to The Washington Post, Paya said that Obama's directive to lift travel and economic restrictions against Cuba would block demands by activists in the country for democratic elections and greater human rights.

The other guests invited by Michelle Obama to attend the address include an auto worker, a small business owner, a community college student, a woman who trained to be a construction worker, and a college student brought to the U.S. as a child by her undocumented parents.

Veteran Jason Gibson, who met Obama while recovering from his war wounds at the Walter Reed military hospital in Washington, is also one of the first lady's guests.

"Despite losing both legs and being unable to use prosthetics, he took up surfing and skiing, completed multiple marathons on a hand cycle, and even obtained his pilot's license," the White House said.

Also invited is astronaut Scott Kelly, who will head out to the International Space Station in March on a mission to become the first American to spend a year living on the orbiting platform.

CVS chief executive Larry Merlo, who headed the move for the drug store chain to stop selling tobacco products in 2014, will also be in Michelle Obama's box, according to CNN.

And the cameras are expected to zoom in on 13-year-old Malik Bryant of Chicago, who sent a letter to Santa Claus saying: "All I ask for is for safety I just wanna be safe."

A non-profit organization forwarded the letter to the White House, leading to an invite to Obama's State of the Union speech.

A climate level researcher, Nicole Hernandez Hammer, is also a guest of the first lady, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

"Growing up in South Florida, Nicole Hernandez Hammer knows firsthand the impacts of climate change and sea level rise and is raising awareness to the disproportionate effects felt along the coast and beyond," the White House said.

"As a sea level researcher she has studied how cities and regions most vulnerable to the effects of climate change also have large concentrations of Hispanics.

"Nicole works to mobilize the Latino community to understand and address the devastating effects that disproportionately affect the health of Hispanics and their families. To that end, Nicole works with Moms Clean Air Force to further the public's awareness of climate change on children's health."

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Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is bringing a Cuban activist to the State of the Union address Tuesday night in an attempt to counter first lady Michelle Obama bringing freed American contractor Alan Gross as her guest, according to CNN.
Marco Rubio, Alan Gross, State of the Union, Cuba
Monday, 19 January 2015 02:21 PM
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