President Barack Obama may think he has become a pacesetter in improving diplomatic and cultural relations with Cuba, but many people of Cuban origin and many lawmakers in Washington aren’t buying it. For one, Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican, lambasted President Barack Obama as the “worst negotiator” and “naive” for The way that he announced the brokered release of one American held in a Cuban prison since 2009 as his reasoning for the first major improvement in over fifty years since the Cuban embargos began.
The stage for the change was set on the release of Alan Gross, a U.S. aid worker who had been held in a Cuban prison for five years. Gross was released on Wednesday in exchange for three Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States for approximately 15 years. That was followed by the announcement of a shift in diplomatic policy between the U.S. and Cuba.
Obama arranged all of this without congressional approval, and possibly with no congressional notification. The response by Republicans to Obama’s actions points to the difficulty of getting an agreement to his decision, since the Republicans will become the majority party in the U.S. Senate this January.
Rubio, in remarks Wednesday said, “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,” he told Fox News America’s Newsroom. commenting on the Obama approach to foreign policy, Senator Rubio said, “His foreign policy is, at a minimum, naive, and, perhaps, even truly, truly counterproductive to the future of democracy in the region.”
Rubio, the anti-Castro Florida senator, is the son of Cuban immigrants. He said the spy swap is sending the wrong message to all the Cubans who have fought for half a century to free the island nation of Communism. “The U.S. can be had, that it’s a pretty easy deal,” Rubio said and added, the action “puts a price on every American abroad.”
The fear in Washington is that deals such as this and the one for Sergeant Bergdahl will entice the tyrants of the world to hold Americans hostage to get their way with the U.S. “I’m not in favor of the process by which his release was acquired, because I think it does set a very dangerous precedent,” Rubio said. “Governments now know that if they can take an American hostage, they can get very significant concessions from the United States.”
Diplomatic negotiation is not the art of giving away the farm in exchange for a single sheep.
If president Obama follows through with his stated intention to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, it will be just another example of the Obama administration negotiating with “oppressive regimes.” Senator Rubio said, “It’s absurd, and it’s part of a long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this administration has established. It is par for the course with this administration that is constantly giving away unilateral concessions, whether it’s Iran, or, in this case, Cuba, in exchange for nothing. And that’s what’s happening here.”
Rubio noted that no civil rights concessions were part of the prisoner swap and Cuba would benefit from a new U.S. policy without offering any human-rights concessions.
“They’re creating no economic openings, no concessions on freedom of speech, no concessions on elections, no concessions on the freedom to have alternative political parties, no concessions on ever having elections, or anything of that matter,” Rubio said, speaking about the capitulation of Obama to the repressive communist regime.
The senator ridiculed the notion that Americans would now travel more to Cuba, send more money to Cuba and sell more consumer products in Cuba. Speaking about the release of Alan Gross, Rubio said, “He never did anything wrong. He was not a spy. He was not a criminal. He was a hostage, and it’s unfortunate that the Cuban government held him for five years, and, basically, almost killed him in captivity.”
A number of Republicans have signaled they will challenge the lifting of Cuban sanctions, and when they take majority control of the Senate next month, they will make it a priority action.