By Senator Marco Rubio
February 2, 2015
In “The Godfather Part II,” Michael Corleone famously responds to a U.S. senator’s demands by saying, “My offer is this: nothing.”
Since President Barack Obama announced his normalization deal with the Cuban regime in December, life appears to be imitating art. Last week, Cuban President Raul Castro declared that his regime would not even entertain the Obama administration’s requests to normalize ties until the United States abandons our naval base at Guantanamo Bay, ends the trade embargo, ceases pro-democracy radio and television broadcasts into Cuba and compensates the regime for “human and economic damages” the U.S. has, according to him, inflicted on the Cuban people. Last month, the regime’s lead negotiator summed up its position even more succinctly after the first round of U.S.-Cuba normalization talks in Havana, saying, “Change in Cuba is not negotiable.”
In other words, emboldened by the first wave of concessions Obama gave the Castro regime in the form of access to more U.S. dollars, it wants even more in exchange for nothing.
When dealing with tyrants, you can’t wear them down with kindness. When that approach is attempted and one-sided concessions are made, tyrants don’t interpret them as good faith gestures. They interpret them as weakness. This is a lesson the Obama administration has failed to learn from its dealings with Iran, North Korea and Russia, and even terrorists such as the Taliban.
On Tuesday, the American people will have their first opportunity to hear from the Obama administration about its dealings with the Castro regime when I chair a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere affairs. I look forward to hearing the perspectives of State Department officials, even though I am already concerned by the administration’s reluctance to allow the American people to hear directly from the two White House officials who negotiated the deal with the Castro regime over the course of 18 months of secret negotiations, and without the input of our government’s top diplomats and negotiators.
Many important questions remain about what exactly the Castro regime has done in exchange for Obama’s softening of travel and banking regulations that will now allow more U.S. dollars to fill the Castro regime’s coffers. For example, it’s unclear why, with all the economic leverage it initially brought to the table, the administration apparently accepted a deal to free conditionally 53 political prisoners -- many of whom were released, but with charges pending or were threatened with more jail time if they renew their pro-democracy work. Indeed, some have already reportedly been rearrested in addition to hundreds of new detentions since the December announcement.
Questions also remain about what, if anything, the administration has done to secure the repatriation of what the FBI estimates to be more than 70 fugitives from justice being provided safe harbor in Cuba, including known cop killers such as Joanne Chesimard. Also unknown is what, if anything, the administration intends to do to secure billions of dollars’ worth of outstanding American property claims and judgments against the Cuban government. The list of questions and concerns like these goes on and on.
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