From a press release:
Washington, D.C. – During a Senate floor speech this evening, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio highlighted the rampant abuses that occur under the Obama Administration’s “people-to-people” program. As part of his remarks, Rubio read from several days’ worth of dancing and music appreciation-heavy travel itineraries that are currently licensed under this program. Below is an excerpt of the speech:
“There’s this sports show. I think it’s on ESPN on Sunday nights, where they review NFL highlights. And Michael Irvin, who was a great player, he has this segment called ‘Come on, man!’, where they put some ridiculous thing that happened during the day and he’ll say, ‘Come on, man!’
“When I look at this stuff, you know what I want to say? Come on, man. This is about promoting democracy and freedom in Cuba? This is not about promoting democracy and freedom in Cuba. This is nothing more than tourism. This is tourism for Americans that, at best, are curious about Cuba and, at worst, sympathize with the Cuban regime.
“Now, you may ask, ‘We’re a free society, why would we restrict that?’ Well, here’s why: because this is not just a source of irritation. This is a source of hard currency, of millions of dollars in the hands of the Castro government that they use to oppress the Cuban people and to jail and hold hostage an American citizen who today is being held hostage in Cuba, Alan Gross. And, by the way, after they took him hostage, we implemented this policy. So this policy is a reward for what?
“So here’s my challenge to the Administration and the State Department: I know you’re not going to change your mind. I know you believe in this people-to-people stuff. I know someone has sold you a bill of goods that this people-to-people travel is a good idea and will further democracy and freedom in Cuba. I get that. You’re not going to change your mind, but at least examine how this is being implemented because this is a charade. This is an embarrassment. These people are getting licenses to conduct this outrageous tourism which, quite frankly, borders on indoctrination of Americans by Castro government officials.
“So I hope we’ll continue to look at this and that this Administration, as part of its western hemispheric approach, will look at these trips for what they are. They’re an outrage. They’re grotesque. And they’re providing hard currency to a regime that oppresses its people, who jails people because they disagree with the government. It’s wrong. This is not what we’re about as a country. This cannot be what we defend. Even if you agree with this people-to-people theory and concept, you cannot justify how this program is being implemented, or these people that are getting licenses to conduct these kinds of trips.
“So I hope that in our conversations with the State Department about their appointments in the Western Hemisphere and, in specific, the nomination of Roberta Jacobson, I hope we’ll use that as an opportunity to examine how these programs are being implemented because, quite frankly, they’re outrageous.