Rubio slams Obama plans to ease travel restrictions on Cuba
By NAHAL TOOSI 5/20/15 12:34 PM EDT Updated 5/20/15 5:41 PM EDT
GOP presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio took another shot Wednesday
at the Obama administration's effort to restore ties with Cuba, slamming
the island's communist leaders for human rights abuses and insisting
that loosening travel restrictions will only boost the Cuban
The Florida senator's comments during a Senate Committee on Foreign
Relations hearing came a day before American and Cuban negotiators were
to sit down to continue talks on reopening embassies in each other's
capitals, the next stage in a rapprochement after decades of estrangement.
"Their views on human rights are not legitimate, they're immoral," Rubio
said of the Cuban government.
Rubio said Americans who travel to Cuba would benefit the Cuban state,
and especially its military, because so many hotels and tourist
establishments are owned by the government, much of it on property that
was improperly confiscated.
Rubio also noted that other countries don't have embargoes on Cuba, but
that despite the availability of trade from nations such as Japan, the
Cuban people were still largely blocked from full access to the Internet
and other technologies. The reason, he pointed out, was the Cuban
"Why isn't Cuba awash in Samsungs?" Rubio asked, adding later: "This is
a government that won't even allow you to bring in certain books to the
Roberta Jacobson, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western
Hemisphere affairs, acknowledged that there are many differences between
the U.S. and Havana on human rights. She noted, however, that there was
a growing private sector on the island and argued that by restoring
diplomatic ties and encouraging trade, the U.S. will have more
opportunities to influence events in Cuba.
When it comes to available technologies, "I'm hoping they want our
stuff," Jacobson said.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) noted that the U.S. has relations with
countries such as Vietnam and China where many businesses are
state-owned and there have been no calls to restrict travel to those states.
Rubio later retorted that economic openings to Vietnam and China had yet
to yield political changes there.
Rubio was restrained compared with Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a
Democrat who has split with the Obama administration on how to deal with
Menendez railed against President Barack Obama's decision to remove Cuba
from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and said the island
continues to actively violate human rights.
"I have deep concerns that the more these talks progress, the more the
administration continues to entertain unilateral concessions without in
return getting agreement on fundamental issues that are in our national
interest and those of the Cuban people," Menendez said.
Source: Rubio slams Obama plans to ease travel restrictions on Cuba -
Nahal Toosi - POLITICO -