House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) will be using tonight’s State of the Union address to voice their opposition to President Barack Obama’s actions to normalize relations with Cuba, according to several reports.
The Republican lawmakers have invited prominent leaders of Cuba’s pro-democracy movement as their guests for Obama’s speech, joining Rosa María Payá, who has been invited by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
José Luis García Pérez, who is known as “Antúnez,” has been invited by Boehner. He spent more than 17 years in prison before he was released in 2007 by the Fidel Castro regime.
Ros-Lehtinen, the first Cuban-American elected to Congress, has invited Marlene Alejandre Triana, the daughter of Armando Alejandre, a decorated veteran and one of the Brothers to the Rescue pilots shot down by the Castro regime in 1996.
García Pérez, 43, told the Washington Examiner on Monday night through an interpreter that his presence at Obama’s address to the nation is an “important recognition to the Cuban resistance” about their plight.
“I am an ambassador for the Cuban resistance – for those struggling inside Cuba,” García Pérez said. “I am here representing all of those prisoners who are not released in response to the Obama-Castro agreement.”
He said he has a strong message for Obama.
“I would tell President Barack Obama that the way to change Cuba is not by engaging the Castro regime – and that Cuba is not the Castro regime,” García Pérez said, emphasizing that “the stronger the regime becomes economically because of investment, the weaker the resistance becomes.”
He continued, “The future of Cuba should not have been agreed to in secret – as these secrets negotiations between Cuba and the regime have been carried out. No agreement that excludes the Cuban resistance and the Cuban people can be considered legitimate.”
The White House announced on Monday that Alan Gross, the subcontractor recently freed by the Cuban government after five years in prison, will be one of First Lady Michelle Obama’s guests along with his wife, Judy.
Gross’ release was part of a deal to restore diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States.