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Miami politicians react to Obama's planned visit to Cuba

@PatriciaMazzei

News of President Barack Obama's impending trip to Cuba -- in March, sources told the Miami Herald -- prompted quick backlash from Miami politicians, many of them of Cuban descent.

Here's reaction, which we will update as it comes in:

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running for president

 

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, who is running for president

 

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

If true, it is absolutely shameful that Obama is rewarding the Castros with a visit to Cuba by a sitting American president since their reign of terror began.  For more than 50 years Cubans have been fleeing the Castro regime yet the country which grants them refuge, the United States, has now decided to quite literally embrace their oppressors. There has been no progress in regards to human rights on the Castro brothers’ island gulag nor have conditions in Cuba improved since this administration began providing the regime with concession after concession. A visit by President Obama more than one year after his unilateral concessions to the regime will only legitimize the Castros’ repressive behavior.

It is a slap in the face to the memory of the Brothers to the Rescue pilots, three U.S. citizens and one U.S. resident, who were murdered by the Castro regime and those who have fled the Castro’s oppression to see Air Force One land in Havana. Instead of standing up for pro-democracy leaders like Las Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez,’ and others, the Obama administration has decided to cater to aging autocrats who rule by denying Cubans their basic human rights. Unfortunately, this announcement encapsulates President Obama’s Cuba policy characterized by unilateral concessions and willfully neglecting to pursue American claims.

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart

Regrettably, President Obama's planned travel to Cuba is hardly a surprise. Instead, it is the latest addition to the litany of concessions to dictators that have come to characterize this administration. The Castro brothers continue to harbor more than seventy fugitives from U.S. justice including 'Most Wanted Terrorist' Joanne Chesimard, Charles Hill and William Morales, smuggle weapons with North Korea and China, and even invited Hezbollah to establish a stronghold within its borders.  

While campaigning for President, Senator Obama promised in Miami that, 'I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice: if you take significant steps toward democracy, beginning with the freeing of all political prisoners, we will take steps to begin normalizing relations.' Obviously, he has abandoned that commitment. And last year, he said that his trip to Cuba would be conditioned on an improvement in human rights. That if 'we're seeing some progress in the liberty and freedom and possibilities of ordinary Cubans, I'd love to use a visit as a way of highlighting that progress... I'm not interested in validating the status quo.' Yet in 2015, political arrests totaled more than 8,000 and political activists Danilo Maldonado Machado 'El Sexto', Vladimir Morera Bacallao, and Misael Canet Velazquez languished near death in Castro's gulag. Cuba remains the only country in the Americas to be classified as 'Not Free' by Freedom House. By any objective measure, the Castro regime has not improved its human rights record. Neither has it unclenched its fist.

During his time in Cuba, President Obama should at least meet with those who risk their lives in the struggle for freedom and who have suffered most as a result of his policy of appeasement. He should meet with activists such as Berta Soler and the Ladies in White, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez 'Antunez' and his wife Yris Tamara Aguilera, Danilo Maldonado Machado 'El Sexto', and Antonio Rodiles. 

The Cuban people will be free. Unfortunately, they will do so in spite of President Obama's alliance with their oppressors.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who is running for U.S. Senate

President Obama’s announcement that he will visit Cuba to meet with the Castro dictatorship and its repressive apparatus in March is the culmination of a disgraceful policy that has weakened U.S. national security and validated oppression over freedom. 
 
On the national security front, Obama’s visit tells the rest of the world that a state that sponsors terrorism, murders U.S. citizens, takes a U.S. citizen hostage and spearheads anti-Americanism throughout our Hemisphere will be legitimized by this Administration. 
 
Just last week we learned from the latest batch of Clinton emails that the terrorist group Hezbollah was establishing a terrorist base of operation directed at Latin America and possibly the United States. Yet, like with the Hellfire Missile and the secret arms shipment to North Korea, it seems to be of no consequence to President Obama that our enemies are determined to diminish American leadership to satisfy an ideological fantasy.
 
It is that same ideological idolatry with the Castro dictatorship that has led this Administration to abandon any form of solidarity with the Cuban people’s God-given right to be free. Since the announcement of the new Cuba policy just 15 months ago, we have seen increased repression on the island met with silence from an Administration more concerned with the politics of a presidential legacy than decades of murder and repression in Cuba and beyond.
 
Obama continues to treat the Castro thugs as genuine representatives of the Cuban nation, when in reality they are the tyrants of the Cuban people. Make no mistake, Obama will not be visiting Cuba; he will be visiting the oppressors of Cuba.
 
Fortunately the United States Congress remains firmly committed to maintain all sanctions on the Castro dictatorship until the Cuban people are able to elect a government that rightfully represents the Cuban nation.  When I have the honor to serve the people of Florida in the U.S. Senate, I will not waiver in my commitment and actions to protect our national security and make clear that it’s in the best interest of the United States for Cuba to be free and democratic.

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, a Democrat running for Congress again

I support President Obama’s historic visit to Cuba and his continued efforts to advance progress for all Cubans. The President’s visit will move both countries forward and the open dialogue will help improve the conditions of the Cuban people.

 

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