Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio visited the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay — setting foot on Cuban soil for the first time in his life — in a solo fact-finding visit on Tuesday that the Cuban-American lawmaker cast as nothing more than typical congressional business as a novice member of the intelligence committee.
“Certainly, it was touching to be able to fly over the island from a distance and see it and know that’s the land that saw your parents and your grandparents born,” Rubio said on his return to Miami in a U.S. Navy C-12 aircraft.
“It’s a place I hope to visit one day soon — a free Cuba, one where the people of Cuba can chose their own leaders and chose their own future.”
Dozens of members of both houses of Congress have made the day trip to the outpost since President George W. Bush set it up soon after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
But the trip by Rubio, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Cuba in 1956, took on a special significance as a dozen reporters thronged his return to ask about where it fit into is role as a potential vice presidential running mate to Mitt Romney.
The senator swatted the question aside, calling it a routine stop as “a member of the intelligence committee,” noting that after not yet two years in the Senate, there are still “a lot of places I need to visit and get up to speed with.”
Rubio noted that he had planned to visit the base in August but canceled because his mother became ill. He declined to answer a question on whether, based on his briefings Tuesday, President Barack Obama was any closer to realizing his ambition in emptying the prison camps.