Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke on the Senate floor about the Biden Administration’s decision to review remittances to Cuba following historic organic protests on the island against the Díaz-Canel/Castro Communist dictatorship. Watch the full speech via Youtube here.
Rubio is the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues.
A broadcast-quality version is available for download here.
Rubio: We’ve heard more about Cuba in the last week than probably the ten years I’ve been here combined. And yesterday, we heard from the White House. And the White House, after having some sort of meeting or conference call, came out and said that they are going to be looking at remittances and increasing and making it easier to get money to relatives in Cuba. That’s not surprising – the people in charge of Cuba policy at the White House, at the National Security Council, and at the State Department, have long been advocates for dialogue with the regime and an economic opening to the regime, they’ve been for getting rid of the embargo and that sort of thing. I think it’s important, given the fact that I recognize that most people in this country and in the Senate don’t follow this issue on a regular basis, that we address that, because the fundamental question being put to us is: so the people of Cuba are suffering, the people of Cuba are going through a difficult economic time. I would argue that they’ve done so for 62 years. Why don’t we get rid of the embargo? Why aren’t we getting rid of the embargo? It would make life easier for them. And I want to address it. I want to address it, especially to those that are not as familiar with this issue.
First of all, let me begin by saying that there are no American ships blockading Cuba, surrounding the island of Cuba. In fact, Cuba frankly does not have an embargo in the way people think. Cuba trades with the whole world. For example, Cuba every year exports $1.2 billion dollars, which doesn’t sound like a lot but is a lot for an island of 11 million people. They export $461 million dollars to China, $127 million dollars to Spain, $65 million to the Netherlands, $64 to Germany. This is not a country that’s isolated, they trade with every country in the world, they import $5.3 billion dollars a year! With Spain alone they import a billion dollars. Another $790 million from China, $327 million from Italy, $295 million from Canada and from Russia. So they import over $5 billion dollars, they export over $1.2 billion dollars. Cuba is not isolated, they trade with every country, this regime trades with virtually every country on the planet.
You know who else they trade with? The United States of America. Cuba trades with the United States of America, they import almost $280 million dollars a year, almost as much as they do with Canada and Russia. And no one accuses Canada or Russia of having a blockade on Cuba. 66 percent of the chicken that’s eaten in Cuba, which is the staple protein in Cuba, comes from the United States. Half of their soybeans come from the United States. There’s only one blockade in Cuba. And it is the blockade that this regime has imposed on its people.
Yesterday, the President announced, or the White House announced, they’re going to set up some remittances group to try to figure out how we make it easier for relatives to send money to their relatives on the island, to Cuba. Well, that work group is not going to have to meet for very long, because U.S. law allows that now! It is not illegal to send money to your relatives in Cuba. The only thing that’s prohibited is you can’t send the money through this bank that the Cuban military set up in Panama. That’s the only thing that’s prohibited. And to the extent money can’t reach the people of Cuba, it is because they refuse to allow anyone other than this bank to do the remittances. And, by the way, they’ve prohibited depositing dollars. Here’s how it works for them: you send your relatives $100 dollars, they take ten percent of it, then they take the dollars – they don’t let them deposit it – pocket the dollars, and they give them this worthless Cuban currency. So they have the dollars and they can buy things for themselves and on the global market. So the blockade, to the extent that there is something preventing remittances directly to the Cuba people, it’s not U.S. policy, it's regime policy. They’re the ones that need a work group.
How about this argument that there’s a blockade on travel? “If only more American tourists could go to Cuba.” (By the way, Cuba is already filled with Canadian tourists and Italian tourists that enjoy five star accommodations. And I’ll be frank, many of them go there, these sick, disgusting men that go there to hook up with a 16 or 17 year old girl.) But that said, they talk about travel to Cuba. Well let me tell you something, travel is allowed now. An American can go to Cuba – you just can’t stay at a military owned hotel, or eat at a military-owned restaurant, or shop at a military owned store. You can stay at the private homes of people that rent them on Airbnb. You can do that. You can eat at a restaurant that’s owned by a private person, shop at stores that are owned by the people. The reason they have nowhere to stay, nowhere to eat, and nowhere to shop is not U.S. policy, it’s that the Cuban regime won’t allow privately owned hotels, privately owned shops, privately owned stores, privately owned restaurants. They’re the ones that have blockade on travel, not the United States.
What about medicine? That’s another thing they put out there: “this is so cruel, we don’t allow medicine in.” Do you know what the Cuban regime announced last week? This is what they announced on their national television: “We are going to lift the ban on the importation of medicine.” What? You mean there was a Cuban ban, a regime ban on importing medicine? Yes, there was. They’re the ones that weren’t allowing medicine in. And any amount they were allowing in, they were putting a tariff on it. So there’s no blockade on medicine. We sell them medicine! And you can donate medicine – unlimited amounts under U.S. law. If there’s a blockade on medicine, it’s the regime’s blockade.
The other one I hear is the internet. I support the internet. I had somebody say this to me yesterday, “Why don’t we allow American companies to go and provide internet? Then they would have internet, it’s the embargo.” And these people don’t know what they’re talking about. They literally are just parroting stupid, ridiculous talking points. Because the law in the U.S. on trade with Cuba specifically exempts telecoms. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, every American telecom can go into Cuba tomorrow and offer phone and internet service. You know why they can’t? It’s not our law, it’s the Cuban regime, because they want to control that.
You see a pattern here. Blockade on travel, blockade on private ownership of business, blockade on bringing in medicine, blockade on bringing in money. Why? Because the Cuban regime wants to control people. They don’t want an individual Cuban to have a paycheck that they earn for themselves. They want what little you have to come from them, because if they don’t do what they tell you, they can take it from you. That’s what they want. They don’t want you to have internet services offered by AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, or anybody else because they want to be able to shut it off when you’re saying things they don’t like and things against them. Same with medicine. They use all of these things as a tool. It’s hard to fathom because we live here, but they use all of it as a tool.
You want medicine? Are you posting stuff on the internet? Are you saying things against the regime? Are you speaking out, are you not participating in these acts of repudiation that we force people to do? Because if you don’t, you’re not going to get your medicine. And they certainly don’t want the cash flowing around, they don’t want independent ownership, they don’t want the people of Cuba to have liberty. This is all about control.
And by the way, in the law that codified the embargo it has a clause that automatically triggers the end of the embargo. And you want to know what this tough standard is that’s in the law? Free the political prisoners, free press, free and fair elections, and multi-party elections. The regime does those three things, and the embargo ends automatically. Automatically. There is no embargo on Cuba. There is an embargo on the Cuban regime, an embargo on the companies they own, because what they wanted to do is that they wanted to take the Obama opening-funnel all that money through their companies.
People say the Spanish company-owned hotels, even though they don’t own the hotels in Cuba! The regime owns the hotels! These hotel chains that open in Cuba on the beaches don’t even pay their employees – they pay the Cuban government, the Cuban government pays the employees. Control. The bottom line is this: anybody who stands up and says “there’s an embargo, there’s a blockade by the United States and it’s cruel and it’s causing all these problems,” is one of two things: they don’t know what they’re talking about and they’re just parroting some talking point. Or they’re liars. Those are the only two options.
This is not about an embargo. The people of Cuba did not take to the streets, did not have their heads cracked open, did not have their kids arrested and put in jail – mothers who tomorrow planned to march in Cuba because they don’t know where their children are arrested, and they don’t know where their kids are. They broke into homes, they grabbed 16 year-old boys, gave them a bat, they said you’re going halfway across the country to beat people up in the street. They didn’t stand up against all those things because of an embargo or because they wanted remittances. They stood up because they wanted liberty. Libertad. That’s what they wanted. That’s what they’re telling us. Why don’t we listen to them? They’ve told us what they want. They want libertad, they want liberty, and if there are any people on this earth that should understand that, it should be Americans.