Tags: Castro-Cuba | Ileana Ros-Lehtinen | Marco Rubio

Cuban-American Lawmakers Slam Obama's Deal with Castro Regime

By    |   Wednesday, 07 January 2015 10:19 AM

President Barack Obama's December announcement of his intention to take executive action to liberalize U.S. policy toward Cuba is meeting with stiff resistance on Capitol Hill, including several Cuban-American legislators.

"Nothing is going to change. It is just going to be economic blood into the cruel regime," Cuban-American Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told The Hill.

"It’s a terrible decision," said the Florida congresswoman, who believes the motive behind the administration's outreach to Cuba has more to do with the president's legacy than anything else.

"I think that the president, in the last two years, is going to do anything to earn his Nobel Peace prize. He is telling Congress, 'You are irrelevant.' I've got my pen. I've got my executive orders.' He is going to rule by fiat," she says.

A member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ros-Lehtinen said the issue of Cuba will be the subject of "lot of hearings, lot of floors speeches and a lot of legislative policy" in the coming weeks.

Another lawmaker wasting no time in seeking to stymie the administration's efforts is Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

On Tuesday, Rubio criticized the administration’s inability to provide clarity on the fate of 53 political prisoners, whose release was promised as part of negotiations with the Castro regime, and called for the cancellation of planned talks later this month on normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations.

“To date, no information has been provided about the political prisoners to be released – regarding their identities, conditions or whereabouts, even on a confidential basis, to members of Congress. Just yesterday, your own State Department was unable to provide an explanation about the political prisoners in question," wrote Rubio in a letter to Obama.

Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a potential Republican presidential candidate, criticized the administration's policy as one-sided in favor of the Castro regime and said that not holding the Castro regime to account for any delay in releasing the prisoners would be a failure that "will further embolden the regime to continue its oppression."

The White House and State Department have not disclosed the names of the prisoners, but have urged patience.

"We will continue, of course, to urge the Cuban government to follow through on its commitment. They have already released some of the prisoners. We’d like to see this completed in the near future. And certainly, that’s something we’ll continue to discuss," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who noted that the Cuban government's promise was made to the Vatican as well.

Since Obama's Dec. 17 announcement, the United States Coast Guard has had to increase patrols between Florida and Cuba to handle a surge in migration attempts, reports Customs Today.

According to the newspaper, the Coast Guard confirmed that 481 Cuban migrants have been prevented from reaching the United States in 37 separate events, which represents a 117 percent increase over December 2013.

The USGC repatriated a total of 121 Cuban migrants who tried to escape Cuba in “unseaworthy, homemade vessels that posed significant risk to the migrants.”

Appearing Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," New Jersey Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez, who believes the chances of confirming an ambassador to Cuba are slim, said the lack of coordination with Congress is reflective of the manner in which the administration has handled other negotiations.

"And this is a problem not only as it relates to Cuba, but Iran, this secret diplomacy in which witnesses come before the committee and you ask them questions about what's happening, whether it be about Iran or Cuba, and you don't get a straight answer. And now you find out that there was in one case a year-and-a-half, in another case over a year of engagement. That's going to be problematic for the administration as it appears before the committee again and again," noted Menendez.

"What it really is about is the ten million people in Cuba who got a bad deal," he told CNN's Dana Bash when asked how angered he was at news of the deal.

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President Barack Obama's December announcement of his intention to take executive action to liberalize U.S. policy toward Cuba is meeting with stiff resistance on Capitol Hill, including several Cuban-American legislators.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Marco Rubio
Wednesday, 07 January 2015 10:19 AM
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