NEW YORK – As Obama administration officials were in Havana on Friday morning, preparing to raise the U.S. flag outside the reopened U.S. Embassy there, Sen. Marco Rubio told a crowd in Manhattan that as president he would undo the new ties between the U.S. and Cuba that are serving only the interests of the Castro dictatorship, and not the United States.
Speaking before a crowd at the Foreign Policy Initiative in Manhattan, Rubio -- a Florida Repubican whose parents came from Cuba and who favors a strict approach to the Castro regime – denounced the overtures that the Obama administration has made to longtime U.S. enemies such as Cuba and Iran.
He termed them “dangerous developments” that “represent the convergence of nearly every flawed strategic, moral, and economic notion that has driven President Obama’s foreign policy, and as such are emblematic of so many of the crises he has worsened around the world.”
Rubio, who has made a hawkish foreign policy approach a cornerstone of his presidential campaign, said that by restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba while the Castro regime has very publicly and adamantly vowed not to change its political system, the Obama administration is disregarding the plight of the Cuban people who continue to endure oppression and human rights violations.
“In Cuba, we face proudly anti-American leaders who continue to work with nations like Russia and China to spy on our people and government,” Rubio said, “who harbor fugitives from American justice; and who stand in opposition to nearly every value our nation holds dear by violating the basic human rights of their own people, preventing democratic elections, and depriving their nation’s economy of freedom and opportunity.”
Rubio said that even as recently as this week, Cuban authorities rounded up some 90 human rights activists and detained them for several hours. He said that is what continues to happen in Cuba – “minor offenses in Iran and Cuba are punishable by indefinite detention, torture, or even death, and these offenses often include nothing more than speaking out with the wrong political opinion.”
Rubio said that if elected president, he would invite dissidents from Iran, Cuba and other nations that are repressive to his inauguration. The 44-year-old senator said this after he noted that Cuban dissidents explicitly were excluded from the embassy reopening in Havana out of fear by the Obama administration of angering Cuban government officials.
“Cuba’s dissidents have fought for decades for the very Democratic principles President Obama claims to be advancing through these concessions,” Rubio said. “Their exclusion from this event has ensured it will be little more than a propaganda rally for the Castro regime.”
Rubio said Obama’s approach to Cuba, and to lifting the sanctions on Iran, undermines the United States moral authority before the international community.
“President Obama has rewarded the Castro regime for its repressive tactics and persistent, patient opposition to American interests,” Rubio said. “He has ensured the regime will receive international legitimacy and a substantial economic boost to benefit its repression of the Cuban people, which has only increased since the new policy was announced.”
Rubio said the olive branch approach to foreign policy would end under his presidency.
“I will quickly reimpose sanctions on Iran,” he said. “I will give the mullahs a choice: either you have an economy or you have a nuclear program, but you cannot have both.”
As for Cuba, Rubio said: “I will undertake an equally bold plan to roll back President Obama’s concessions to the Castro regime.”
“First, on day one, I will give the Castros a choice: either continue repressing your people and lose the diplomatic relations and benefits provided by President Obama, or carry out meaningful political and human rights reforms and receive increased U.S. trade, investment, and support.”
Rubio said he would also put Cuba back on the world state sponsors of terrorism list, from which the Obama administration just took the country off, and he would give active support to dissidents.
“These are the actions required,” Rubio said, “to restore the safety and security President Obama has cost us through his diplomacy with dictators.”