- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida on Wednesday tore into the Obama administration’s formally re-establishing diplomatic ties with Cuba, saying that the communist island country’s “geriatric rulers” “deny their people access to the Internet” and are responsible for terrorizing and imprisoning dissidents.

“When President Obama announced the formal re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba last week, he criticized the supposed failures of United States policy toward Cuba, which, Mr. Obama said, ‘hasn’t worked for 50 years,’” Mr. Rubio, one of the leading critics of the Obama administration’s handling of Cuba, wrote in an opinion piece for The New York Times.

“The reality of course is that American policy is no more to blame for Cuba’s economic and political problems than it was for the Soviet Union’s bread lines or for the fact that tens of millions of Chinese still live in poverty,” wrote Mr. Rubio, who is Cuban-American.

Mr. Rubio, a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, went on to cite China and Vietnam as examples of two countries that opened up economic ties only to remain tightly controlled politically.

“No Communist police state has ever unclenched its fist just because a McDonald’s has opened or an embassy has been established,” Mr. Rubio wrote.

He wrote that for many people in China and Vietnam, the standard of living has improved but prospects of political freedom for regular citizens are “extinguished as elites with connections to the party become economic oligarchs.”

Mr. Obama told Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong Tuesday he plans to visit Vietnam soon.

“When we make engagement with the odious leaders of these countries our foreign policy, we make a Faustian bargain that is contrary to our national values and also to our strategic interests,” Mr. Rubio wrote. “Instead of the administration’s approach — one-sided concessions that have served only to reward Cuba’s rulers despite their lack of reform — we should be stating clearly what reforms America expects before we deepen ties.”

Mr. Rubio said the U.S. should make Cuba address outstanding property claims and judgments, that individuals designated as domestic terrorists should be returned to the U.S. to face justice, and that political prisoners must be released “and political reforms begun.”

“If the Castros — President Raúl and his elder brother Fidel — realized that they would be able to profit only by reforming and allowing more political and economic openness, increased United States engagement might make a difference,” Mr. Rubio wrote. “Otherwise, Mr. Obama’s policy will lead only to a deepening of repression.

“It is the ruling oligarchs who stand to benefit from Mr. Obama’s opening to Cuba, not the Cuban people,” he concluded. “It is unfortunate that, after taking a strong if difficult moral stance for many years, we are now empowering those who deny the Cubans their wish to be free and prosperous.”

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