Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Rubio Criticizes Obama’s SOTU Call to End Cuba Embargo

    Rubio Criticizes Obama’s SOTU Call to End Cuba Embargo
    The president’s call to end the embargo with Cuba met criticism from
    both parties.
    By Tom Risen Jan. 21, 2015 | 3:40 p.m. EST + More

    President Barack Obama called for Congress to end the U.S. embargo
    against Cuba during his State of the Union speech, but prominent
    Cuban-American lawmakers like Sen. Marco Rubio remain skeptical that
    opening trade with the island would promote democratic values there.

    Obama in December announced the U.S. would normalize diplomatic
    relations with Cuba, drawing criticism from both Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen.
    Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who argued the move would enable the survival
    of the island’s dictatorship, led by Raul Castro. Neither of the top
    Cuban-American lawmakers applauded when Obama spoke about his plans for
    Cuba on Tuesday — and the Republicans seated in the House chamber were
    also silent during that part of the speech.

    “Our shift in Cuba policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust
    in our hemisphere, removes a phony excuse for restrictions in Cuba,
    stands up for democratic values and extends the hand of friendship to
    the Cuban people,” Obama said in his speech. “And this year, Congress
    should begin the work of ending the embargo.”

    Cuban officials on Wednesday in Havana began the first of several
    diplomatic talks — the first since 1961 — by meeting with Roberta
    Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

    Rubio told U.S. News after the address that he is not optimistic that
    more U.S. business in Cuba has the potential to undermine the Castro
    regime by exposing its people to more Western goods and media.

    “I don’t know of a single contemporary, reluctant tyranny that has
    become a democracy because of more trade and tourists,” Rubio says.
    “China is now the world’s richest tyranny, Vietnam continues to be a
    communist tyranny. And [Myanmar] Burma, even though they actually agreed
    to some democratic openings when the U.S. recognized them
    diplomatically, they have actually begun to take back a lot of those
    democratic openings.”

    First l?ady Michelle Obama helped boost her husband’s Cuba policy by
    sitting during the speech with Alan Gross, a U.S. Agency for
    International Development contractor who was accused of being a spy
    while working in Cuba?,? imprisoned there for five years and recently
    freed as part of Obama’s deal with Castro. Rubio made his own statement
    on Cuba by inviting the daughter of an anti-Castro activist who was
    critical of Obama’s plans? as his guest for the speech Tuesday.?

    Trade with the U.S. should be used as an incentive for repressive
    governments to institute human rights reforms, Rep. Gerry Connolly,
    D-Va., says. While Connolly supports normalizing relations with Cuba —
    noting that the U.S. recognized the Soviet Union during the Cold War —
    the member of the House Committee on Foreign Relations adds that Obama
    should have pushed Castro for more democratic reforms before announcing
    his plan to open diplomacy and trade with the island.

    China has more resources to spend on Internet censorship than Cuba, but
    Castro still has a “pretty vibrant secret police force” that represses
    free speech on the island, Connolly says.

    “We need to use the liberalization of trade in exchange for something,
    in exchange for political freedom, more religious freedom, more press
    freedom,” he says.

    Pope Francis played a large role brokering the diplomacy between Havana
    and Washington, so Connolly hopes the pontiff will discuss the Cuba
    issue when he addresses Congress in late September, as first reported by
    Catholic News Agency. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports normalizing
    relations with Cuba because of its potential to increase trade and
    American jobs.

    Cubans born in the U.S. are more supportive of Obama’s plans compared
    with those who emigrated from the island, according to a poll conducted
    by Bendixen & Amandi International and published in the Miami Herald. A
    63 percent majority of Cubans born in the U.S. would end the embargo,
    while only 38 percent of immigrant Cuban-Americans support lifting it,
    according to the poll. Menendez and Rubio were both born in America.

    Source: Rubio Criticizes Obama’s SOTU Call to End Cuba Embargo – US News