Bob Menendez says Obama administration's Cuba policy is 'one-way street'
By Elizabeth LlorentePublished August 20, 2015 Fox News Latino
Sen. Robert Menendez took aim at what he sees as velvet-glove treatment
of the Castro regime in Cuba by the Obama administration, saying that
all the U.S. overtures toward the communist nation have made zero
difference in how oppressed its citizens are.
Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants who grew up in Union City, New
Jersey, was raised on stories about the suffering of people who stayed
behind in. And like many Cuban exiles and the children they raised with
those stories, the Democratic senator has little tolerance for any move
toward being amiable with Cuba's leaders.
Late last year, both presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced a
deal to re-establish diplomatic relations, including easing U.S. trade
and travel restrictions. But that agreement, he said in an interview
with Fox News Latino, "is a one-way street."
"Cuba said, 'You want to have a relationship with us? Well, we want our
three convicted spies back,'" Menendez said. "Including one who was
convicted of conspiracy to commit the murder of three United States
In the last few weeks, the two nations re-opened embassies in each
other's capitals. Last Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry was in
Havana to raise the American flag in front of the U.S. embassy.
Extending an olive branch to Castro while requiring him to make no
meaningful changes in return, is an affront to human rights and the
United States moral authority in the world, Menendez maintains.
"We send them the spies back, we get an innocent American – who should
never have been held hostage in the first place – in return," he said.
"We don't send spies back in the world. Anywhere. This is like a whole
new [world] order."
The Obama administration has said that more than 50 years of a Cold War
hostility toward Cuba has accomplished nothing, except to give Fidel and
Raúl Castro's regimes an excuse – the U.S. embargo – for why its economy
is a mess and people struggle to make ends meet.
The White House has denied that the release of the American, Alan Gross,
who was in a Cuban jail for five years, was a swap for the Cuban spies.
Gross was arrested in 2009 for his work as a U.S. government contractor
to set up Internet access without local censorship for Cuba's Jewish
community. Cuban officials said it was a crime to engage in what it
called subversive work and gave him a 15-year prison sentence.
Menendez said there are numerous, serious human-rights violations Cuba
has committed that should have been resolved before any accord involving
restoring relations took place.
Those include the U.S. fugitives, including former Black Liberation Army
leader Joanne Chesimard, who was sentenced for the 1973 killing of a New
Jersey state trooper, who have been granted refuge in Cuba. Chesimard
escaped prison and ended up on the island in 1984. Then-President Fidel
Castro called her a hero and granted her political asylum.
Chesimard, 67, is the only woman on the FBI's list of "wanted
terrorists" and has a $2 million bounty on her head.
Menendez says Chesimard is but one of "50 to 75 felons that committed
major crimes in the United States who are in Cuba."
There was also the decision, he said, by the Obama administration to
invite Cuba to the Summit of the Americas earlier this year.
The basic concept of the summit, he said, is a gathering for
democratically-elected officials in the Western Hemisphere.
"I don't think anyone can dispute that Cuba is not a
democratically-elected government," Menendez said.
All these allowances by the United States, the senator said, "undermine
the value of democracy and human rights in the region."
Obama administration officials and congressional lawmakers, including
Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat, who were at the forefront of
pushing for restored U.S.-Cuba relations said that leaders from Latin
America often complained about Cuba being left out.
"I care about the Cuban people," Menendez said. "I want to see democracy
and human rights … There is no free press there. You can't elect who you
want to govern you. You can't start your own business at will. You don't
get to choose freely at the altar you worship without consequences."
He looks at all of the things that have changed since the accord, and
sees little trickling down to the people, he said.
"In the first seven months of this year alone, 2,500 human-rights
activists and political dissidents have been arrested and detained for
peaceful protests," he said.
"Then on the day that we open our embassy, Secretary Kerry doesn't
invite [Cuba's] human-rights activists, the political dissidents the
independent journalists to the opening and flag-raising. If in the
courtyard of the U.S. embassy in Havana dissident is not permitted, it
will certainly not be permitted on the island."
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Bob Menendez says Obama administration's Cuba policy is 'one-way
street' | Fox News Latino -