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Rubio Discusses Historic Protests in Cuba on Senate Floor
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke on the Senate floor regarding the historic protests happening in Cuba. Watch his speech here and see below for a lightly edited transcript of his remarks.
Rubio: “Mr. President, the world — the country — yesterday watched these images out of Cuba, really unprecedented. In 62 years of communist tyranny on the island of Cuba, we have never seen, there’s never been, what now is up to 40 cities in which people took to the streets organically, unorganized, grassroots, to ask for the end of that tyranny. And I think it’s important for a lot of people that are new to the issue to understand what that means and what it’s all about.
“The first lesson we need to take away from it is that Marxism, socialism, doesn’t work. The way socialism, the way Marxism has always worked, the way it’s always empowered itself, is it goes to the people and immediately divides them. It says there is an oppressor class and that there is this victim class and these evil oppressors, capitalists, in the case of socialism or traditional Marxism, they oppress the victims.
“What [victims] have to do is… you have to give us the power in government to take care of these oppressors, to go after these oppressors. And if you give us that power, we will deliver you security; we will protect you from the oppressors. They ask for security in exchange for freedom. That is always the price that socialism asks for: security. And what you wind up with is a country of people that hate each other, that are angry at each other. A significant portion of the people in the country have to leave, have to flee, go to jail because they are the oppressor class, their lives are destroyed, their family lives are destroyed.
“But socialism can’t deliver the security. And when it can’t deliver the security, you don’t get your freedom back. And in fact, when you start to complain about that, that is when the repression comes. That’s what’s happened in Cuba.
“Socialism and Marxism have done in Cuba what it has done everywhere in the world that it’s been tried. It has failed. It has failed. They gave up their freedom, or they were told, ‘Give up your freedom in exchange for a world-class health care system.’ It’s not a world-class health care system. In fact, it’s a health care system that does not even have the ability to deal with COVID at its very basic level.
“[The Cuban government] says, ‘Give up your freedom for economic security.’ What economic security? People are hungry; homes are crumbling. There is no economy. There is no real economy in Cuba. ‘Give up your freedom and you’ll have an education. Free education for everybody.’ That education, number one, you’re a doctor. You can drive a taxi cab in Cuba and make more money. Or number two, you get sent, forced, to go overseas and work basically on slave wages, no pay — barely any pay at all. It’s basically human trafficking, as our own Department of State found when it looked at the Cuban doctors program and how it’s been abused.
“So what’s happened in Cuba is that socialism has failed. It has to repress the people who complain about it. You don’t get your freedom back. And like socialists always do, they have to find someone to blame. And who do they blame? Number one, they blame anybody in the country that doesn’t agree with them. You’re immediately a counterrevolutionary. You’re immediately a pawn of the imperialists.
“And then of course, they always blame the United States. The problem in Cuba for the regime is the people aren’t falling for those lies anymore. They’re not. The embargo, the first thing they blame, it’s the embargo. ‘The embargo is causing all this.’ Why aren’t fishermen and farmers in Cuba allowed to fish or grow things and sell to people? It’s not the embargo that keeps them from doing that. It’s the regime. Why can’t Cubans own a small business? Why can’t a Cuban do in Cuba what they can do in Miami, what they can do in Washington, what they do in countries all over the world? They can’t do it in Cuba. They can’t open a small business. That’s not the embargo that keeps them from doing it. In fact, U.S. law allows us to trade and do commerce with small businesses that are independently owned by Cubans.
“You know why Cubans can’t own small businesses? It’s not the embargo, it’s not the U.S. It’s the regime that doesn’t allow it. People see these lies. How can they afford to build luxury, four-star, world-class hotels for tourists, but they cannot afford to deal with the crumbling homes that Cubans are living in, with roofs literally falling in over their head? With water leaking into the operating rooms in hospitals?
“Look what they do with the money. ‘Oh, it’s because you don’t allow more money to be sent.’ When an American, a Cuban American, sends money to their families in Cuba in the past through Western Union, the regime takes 10 percent off the top. And then, they take those dollars you sent, they force the Cubans to convert it into a worthless currency, they keep the dollars, and then — guess what — if you want to buy anything, you’ve got to buy it from a government store, and guess what the government store sells things for? Dollars.
“That’s not the embargo. That’s the Cuban regime that does that! And who is it that’s putting people in jail, gets your head cracked open, gets your door kicked down in the middle of the night? There are 80 people missing today, at least 80 people, disappeared overnight. Their family doesn’t know where they are. That’s not the embargo that’s jailing people. That’s the regime. And that’s what I tell people. You can open up all you want. We can pass a bill here that says open to Cuba, 100 percent open. You can do whatever you want! Full, free trade, you can do whatever you want.
“At the end of the day, the Cuban regime will control that opening. It’s not just what we want to do. It’s what they want to do. You want to do tourism? We tried that in 2015 with the Obama changes. And you know what they did? They said, ‘Thank you. We love the fact you’re coming here as tourists.’ Guess what? All the tourist sites are owned by a holding company named GAESA, controlled by the Cuban military, so everything comes through [the regime’s] hands.
“You want to send them food? That’s great. Guess who gets it. ALIMPORT, which is a government, military-owned, agriculture company. You can’t sell it to a small grocery store in Cuba or even a food wholesaler. It goes to the Cuban government. You want to send money? They take it. You know why? Because socialism is about control. And all of these things — tourism, food, money, medicine — it’s all about control.
“You want humanitarian aid? Let’s get Red Cross — any of these vetted NGOs in the world should be allowed into Cuba. They won’t allow it. A., because it’s embarrassing to them. They have a world-class health care system; why do they need humanitarian aid? But B., because they want to control it. Send them vaccines. But if you put it in their hands, the government, the regime, guess who gets the vaccines? … First the regime elites, then the people who behave. If you’re not behaving, if you’re not going along with what they want you to do, you don’t get a vaccine.
“They will use any opening as a tool, as a weapon against their people, because that’s what socialism does. That’s what these Marxists do in Cuba. They will use anything as a weapon against the people of Cuba.
“‘What can we do?’ is what people want to know. Number one, I hope we will all be clear about whose side we’re on. You don’t even have to agree with anything I’ve said. What you should agree with is that people everywhere in the world, including 90 miles from our shore, should be allowed to go into the street, peacefully march, call for an end to dictatorship, and not have their head cracked open.
“By the way, no one in Cuba has guns except the military, so why are these repressive forces walking around with these rifles and people [are] getting shot? They’re shooting people that literally are unarmed… We should be clear in our language. We don’t just condemn this tyranny; we condemn this communism, this Marxist — this socialist — tyranny. Call it for what it is.
“Number two, we should make clear nothing [from Trump-era policies] is going to change. There’s not going to be any sanctions changed as a result of this — on the contrary. I hope the Biden Administration will now announce they have finished their review of Cuba policy and everything that’s in place will stay in place.
“To the extent we change policy, number three, I hope we make it a top priority to allow the people of Cuba to have free, unfettered open internet access. And the technology exists to do that with a satellite-based system. We should put the best minds to work on getting that done, because if the Cuban people have free and unfettered access to the internet — the first thing the regime shut down yesterday was the internet — they can communicate with each other, and they can receive information and communicate with the world. It’s 90 miles from our shores. We should be allowed to do that.
“Number four, for all those who believe and have faith in the international community — and I still hold hope that one day it will work again — where’s Spain? Where’s the EU? Where are all these countries that for years have given cover and protection to the Cuban regime and condemned America? They should speak out clearly that what’s happening there is wrong, that repression is wrong. We should rally [for] that. We should use our position of strength and power in the world and our influence in diplomatic circles to make that happen.
“And number five, I hope the president will be very clear with the regime in Cuba that we will not tolerate them encouraging a mass migration event. I’m warning you, this is what they do. They’ve done it twice already. Things get bad, and they say, ‘Look, if you don’t lift sanctions, if you don’t go back to the Obama-era policies, if you don’t get rid of the embargo, it’s inevitable — we’re going to have 50,000 people take to the ocean and head towards the United States.’
“They’ve used that against us twice. They did it in ’94, they did it in 1980 with the Mariel boatlift, and President Biden needs to be clear — whether it’s through private channels or saying it publicly — be abundantly clear we will make the encouragement of mass migration towards the United States as a hostile action and act accordingly. That cannot be tolerated.
“I want to close with this. I recognize that most of the members of this chamber, most of the people here in Washington, and frankly most of the people in the country, do not pay attention to Cuba on a daily basis. I get it, I really do. But if you’re not following the issue of Cuba, you can be forgiven for not knowing that what we’re seeing, what we saw yesterday, what we’re seeing today, what’s happened recently, none of this was started by politicians. It wasn’t started by me. It wasn’t started by anybody in Miami or in Florida. It wasn’t started by any thinktank in Washington. It wasn’t even started by political activists in Cuba.
“You know who started what’s happening in Cuba? Artists. Poets, songwriters, writers, actors, musicians. They are the ones who started it. The San Isidro movement. Because [the regime] came after them. And there’s a song — a lot of people don’t realize there was a song that came out earlier this year — a song that, by the way, if you play in Cuba, you will go to jail. The song’s name is ‘Patria y Vida.’ Now, the slogan of the Cuban regime is ‘Patria o Muerte,’ meaning ‘fatherland or death.’ This song played on that — ‘Patria y Vida,’ which means fatherland and life, instead of fatherland or death.
“And the song is extraordinarily powerful because it was written by people and sung by people who have lived this reality and who are living this reality. It’s so powerful, as I said, that you’ll go to jail in Cuba if you play it. What the song basically says is, ‘Why can’t people think in different ways and not be treated as enemies? Why is life so good for party insiders and their families, but there’s no food for average Cubans? There seems to be no embargo for the Cuban regime and their family members. Why can you build luxury hotels while our homes are crumbling? Why do Cubans have to suffer the indignities, the indignities of simple things like not being able to bathe with soap, not being able to use deodorant, not having toothpaste. Why do they have to deal with these indignities?’
“The song also asks who told the regime that Cuba belongs to them and only them? Shouldn’t it belong to all 13 million Cubans? The chorus, I’ll read first in English and then translate in Spanish, because it actually plays on the domino — domino is a very popular game played by Cubans, played by everybody, but Cubans in particular. It’s a big game there.
“The chorus reads, ‘Se acabó. Tu cinco nueve, yo, doble dos / Ya se acabó. Sesenta años trancando el dominó.’ How it translates is basically it says, ‘It’s over. You’re 59, meaning 1959, the year Castro took over, but I have double twos.’ And everyone knows in the domino game, at the end of the chain… if no one has any dominoes left to put down, the game gets locked and you count numbers and you count dots to see who won. So it says, ‘It’s over. You’re 59, but I have double twos. It’s over. Sixty years with the domino game locked up for us.’
“Now, I know this is a very colloquial Cuban way of expressing it, but this is incredibly powerful. The people in Cuba understood what that means. And that means that all this ideology, all the stuff they talk about, these lies with the regime that worked out well for them — people don’t believe it anymore, and they’re not afraid anymore. Meanwhile, their lives are ruined. Young people in Cuba, artists in Cuba… realize that the only country on this planet where Cubans are not successful is Cuba, and they’re tired of it. And we should stand with them.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”