Menendez urges US to stop visas for Cuban officials after alleged attack on dissident

File: Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez"

File: Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez"  (Photo from Cuban Democratic Directorate)

A Democratic senator urged the Obama administration Tuesday to stop loosening restrictions on communist Cuba after the Castro regime reportedly beat and jailed a dissident who recently testified before the U.S. Senate.

“Enough is enough Mr. President,” Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said during an impassioned, 15-minute speech on the Senate floor.

Menendez joins Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio and several other Capitol Hill lawmakers this week in denouncing the purported beating of Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez,” whom special police allegedly nabbed off a Cuban street Saturday afternoon. The officers beat Perez, nearly suffocated him with blasts of pepper spray, then took him to a secret location, the victim’s wife said.  

The beating, which the wife described on Miami-based Radio Republica, occurred two days after Perez testified via video teleconference at a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing on political and social freedom inside Cuba.

Perez, who had already spent 17 years inside a Cuban prison, was picked up midday while making a cellphone call.

The wife said the jail cell beating was the result of Perez and other inmates protesting her being beaten when she tried to visit the jail, said Menendez, the American-born son of Cuban immigrants and chairman of the subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Global Narcotics Affairs.

Menendez wants the administration to stop issuing non-essential visas for Cuba officials and cut off tourist travel and agricultural trade.

“Our response must be unparalleled,” said Menendez, who thinks the attack was a direct response to Perez testifying.

He and other lawmakers also have called for a human rights investigation into the incident.

Rubio said Monday the incident was clearly the work of the regime of Cuban President Raul Castro and his brother, Fidel.

“The regime thugs will eventually be held accountable,” said Rubio, whose parents left Cuba in the 1950s. “History will not wipe away the blood on their hands.”

However, he stopped short of asking the administration to stop issuing visas, instead calling for a re-examination of the program.

Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, late Tuesday afternoon joined Rubio and Menendez and other Capitol Hill lawmakers in condemning the regime’s actions.

“I echo the calls of my Senate colleagues, demanding an end to repression in Cuba and urging international observers to conduct an investigation into his detention," Kerry, D-Mass., said.

Florida GOP Reps. David Rivera and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen issued similar statements.

Rubio and Menendez expressed outrage last month when Raul Castro’s daughter, Mariela, was granted a temporary visa to attend an academic conference in San Francisco and then a talk in New York City.