- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was one of many Republicans to criticize President Obama’s move on Wednesday to open up diplomatic relations with Cuba, saying the move undermines America’s credibility and the “quest for a free and democratic Cuba.”

“The Obama administration’s decision to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba is the latest foreign policy misstep by this president, and another dramatic overreach of his executive authority,” Mr. Bush said on a statement posted to his Facebook page.

Mr. Bush, who announced Tuesday he was actively exploring a bid for the presidency in 2016, said he’s “delighted” that American Alan Gross was freed after five years in prison, but said it was “unfortunate” that the United States chose to released three convicted spies as part of the deal.

“Cuba is a dictatorship with a disastrous human rights record, and now President Obama has rewarded those dictators,” he said. “We should instead be fostering efforts that will truly lead to the fair, legitimate democracy that will ultimately prevail in Cuba.”

Earlier this month, Mr. Bush said the U.S. should consider strengthening its embargo against Cuba at the annual luncheon of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC as he pledged support for the group, a strong defender of the policy.

“I am honored to be a soldier in your army,” he told the crowd in Spanish, according to the AP.

Relations between the U.S. and Cuba figures to be one of many points of disagreement between 2016 Republican contenders like Mr. Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who both spoke out in opposition to the president’s move Wednesday, and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton, the presumed frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in 2016, told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos in July she thinks the embargo has been a failure.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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