Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued the following statement regarding reports of political prisoners who have recently been released in Cuba, as well as the Obama Administration’s announcement that Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson will lead a delegation to Havana on January 21-22 to discuss normalizing relations:
“The recent Cuban prisoner releases and the Obama Administration’s announced trip to Havana on January 21 for normalization talks raise many troubling questions and are proof that President Obama negotiated a bad deal.
“As I’ve said before, it’s a mistake for the administration to proceed with legitimizing and enriching the Castro regime as part of the one-sided deal President Obama announced last month. Nonetheless, the very least they can do now is ensure that the 53 political prisoners that the administration and regime agreed would be freed are actually released unconditionally.
“It’s a good thing that these Cuban activists who have reportedly been released in recent days will not have to spend another day in Castro’s political prisons. No one should ever ignore the fact that these individuals should never have been imprisoned in the first place.
“However, there are reports of conditions being placed on these political prisoners’ release and threats made against them if they decide to re-continue their efforts in support of freedom for the Cuban people. That’s not freedom, and the administration must answer if these conditional, potentially short-lived releases are, in fact, what it agreed to with the regime and why it took so long for them to be released.
“As a whole, the Obama Administration needs to be more transparent about all aspects of its secret deal with the Castro regime, starting with these 53 political prisoners. I’m very concerned by the White House’s suggestion that being transparent about these 53 political prisoners is counterproductive because it would put even bigger targets on them. On the contrary, knowing the prisoners’ names, conditions and whereabouts is critically important in order for the U.S. to hold the regime accountable and for the American people to hold the administration accountable for its deal. So far, the only reason we know about these prisoner releases is because of the work of civil society groups in Cuba, not because the Obama Administration has been transparent and forthcoming about this information.
“The Administration has a lot of questions to answer, and I’m looking forward to giving them an opportunity to do so in upcoming hearings this Congress. Congress should not support changes to Cuba policy that do not result in more freedom for the Cuban people.
“Given all this air of secrecy surrounding the administration’s deal with Cuba as well the White House’s suggestion that even freed prisoners will still be targeted, the President is wrong to move forward with normalization talks in Havana later this month.”