Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Republicans livid over Cuba talks, call it appeasement

    Republicans livid over Cuba talks, call it appeasement
    By KATIE GLUECK and SEUNG MIN KIM 12/17/14 11:07 AM EST Updated 12/18/14
    2:29 AM EST

    Leading Republicans reacted with outrage Wednesday over the Obama
    administration’s move to normalize relations with Cuba, with some
    casting it as appeasement and the product of blackmail by the communist
    Castro government.

    Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants and a likely 2016
    presidential contender, was perhaps the most ardent voice to denounce
    the administration, and one of several Florida Republicans to do so. He
    and others in the GOP promised to try to derail the White House’s
    efforts, even as at least one Republican-leaning group, the U.S. Chamber
    of Commerce, welcomed the news of improved ties with Cuba.

    “It’s part of a long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this
    administration has established,” Rubio said on Fox News, one of multiple
    media appearances he made Wednesday. He insisted that the White House’s
    plans, which include opening an embassy in Havana, won’t result in more
    economic freedom or democracy in Cuba, a country that survived decades
    under a U.S. embargo.

    “This notion that somehow being able to travel more to Cuba, to sell
    more consumer products, the idea that’s going to lead to some democratic
    opening is absurd,” Rubio said. “But it’s par for the course with this
    administration constantly giving away unilateral concessions … in
    exchange for nothing.”

    Rubio had mixed feelings on news that Alan Gross, an American held in
    Cuba for five years, was being released as part of an agreement with
    Havana that included the freeing of three Cubans who had been jailed in
    the U.S.

    The senator said he was happy Gross was free, but worried that the deal
    “puts a price on every American abroad.” “Governments now know if they
    can take an American hostage, they get very significant concessions,”
    Rubio said.

    Rubio is set to play a major role in Cuba policy next year as the
    chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western
    Hemisphere and Global Narcotics Affairs.

    He pointed to some of Congress’s leverage points, such as its say in
    funding for embassies and the nomination of a U.S. ambassador to Cuba,
    as means of stopping the White House’s moves. And in a press conference
    on Wednesday, Rubio also threw cold water on the prospects of the new
    Republican-led Congress next year formally lifting the Cuban embargo,
    saying flatly: “This Congress is not going to lift the embargo.”

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who announced this week that he is
    seriously exploring a 2016 run, weighed in later Wednesday, calling the
    plans for Cuba “the latest foreign policy misstep” by President Barack
    Obama and “another dramatic overreach of his executive authority.”

    “It undermines America’s credibility and undermines the quest for a free
    and democratic Cuba,” he said in a statement that also welcomed Gross’

    The state’s current governor, Rick Scott, also blasted the Obama
    administration: “As long as Cuba chooses dictatorship over democracy, I
    will continue to support the embargo and sanctions against them,” he
    said in a statement.

    Florida GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who, like Rubio, is also
    Cuban-American, said he welcomed Gross’s release even as he blasted
    Obama as the “Appeaser-in-Chief.” “President Obama’s decision to allow
    the Castro regime to blackmail the United States and abandon our
    pro-democracy principles is an outrage,” he said in a statement.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is expected to chair a
    powerful Senate panel next year that oversees funding for the State
    Department and other foreign operations, tweeted that the development is
    “an incredibly bad idea.” The Republican added later: “I will do all in
    my power to block the use of funds to open an embassy in Cuba.
    Normalizing relations with Cuba is bad idea at a bad time.”

    But incoming Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, a Republican
    from Tennessee, was more measured, saying in a statement that he heard
    the news Wednesday morning and that “as of now there is no real
    understanding as to what changes the Cuban government is prepared to make.”

    And Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona who flew to Cuba to help
    bring Gross back, warned against rushing to stop the White House’s moves.

    “I think that would be really counterproductive to block funding for an
    embassy,” Flake told reporters at the Capitol, adding: “For those who
    say this is a concession somehow to the Cuban regime … I think that that
    is a wrong way to look at it. That is simply wrong. The policy that
    we’ve had in place for the past 50 years has done more in my view …. to
    keep the Castro regimes in power than anything we could’ve done.”

    The Chamber’s support of the Obama administration’s actions also was
    evidence of fissures within the GOP over Cuba.

    “The U.S. business community welcomes today’s announcement, and has long
    supported many of the economic provisions the president touched on in
    his remarks,” Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a

    “We deeply believe that an open dialogue and commercial exchange between
    the U.S. and Cuban private sectors will bring shared benefits, and the
    steps announced today will go a long way in allowing opportunities for
    free enterprise to flourish.”

    Jonathan Topaz contributed to this report.

    Source: Republicans livid over Cuba talks, call it appeasement – Katie
    Glueck and Seung Min Kim – POLITICO –