- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

First President Obama traded five Guantanamo terror detainees for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, now he swapped three Cuban spies for Alan Gross — moves that drew criticism slamming him as the ‘worst negotiator’ as president since Jimmy Carter.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, made the declaration Wednesday in the wake of an announced deal that will free Mr. Gross, an American, from imprisonment in Cuba in exchange for three Cubans convicted of espionage.

“At a minimum, I would say this: Barack Obama is the worst negotiator that we’ve had as president since at least Jimmy Carter, and maybe in the modern history of this country,” Mr. Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants and a possible 2016 presidential contender, said on Fox News.

Mr. Rubio said in a separate statement that he rejoices at the fact that Mr. Gross is being released but said there should be no equivalence between his release and those of three Cuban agents found guilty of spying more than a decade ago, calling Mr. Obama’s decision to “reward the Castro regime and begin the path toward the normalization of relations with Cuba” “inexplicable.”

“Appeasing the Castro brothers will only cause other tyrants from Caracas to Tehran to Pyongyang to see that they can take advantage of President Obama’s naiveté during his final two years in office,” Mr. Rubio said.

A senior administration official told CNN that none of it is seen as a reward, but rather as a way of promoting change in Cuba, saying Cuba is “still an authoritarian state and we still have profound differences with this government.”

PHOTOS: See Obama's biggest White House fails

Obama drew heavy criticism over the summer for swapping five Guantanamo detainees for Sgt. Bergdahl, who was suspected of deserting.

Officials said the U.S. and Cuba also released political prisoners, including a U.S. intelligence asset, in a separate deal.

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

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