From an interview by John Harwood of CNBC
HARWOOD: You’ve been very strong in saying it was disgraceful that the president re-established relations with Cuba. Does it give you any pause to know that the pope has a different view and was part of that opening?
RUBIO: No. The pope has a different job than I do. The pope’s job is to be the spiritual leader of the Catholic church, and to always call us to unity and brotherly love, and I understand that. And we all have that calling to some extent. But I’m a U.S. senator, and my job is to serve the national interests of the United States. I do not believe it is in the national interest of the United States to have a one-sided agreement with an anti-American, communist tyranny 90 miles from our shores.
I’m not against all changes to U.S. policy towards Cuba. I just think they need to be reciprocal. If we’re going to provide more travel to Cuba, the Cubans are going to have to make some changes on the island.
John Paul was fiercely anti-communist, very involved in his homeland of Poland. I want the Cuban people to have what the Polish people had, which is the opportunity to free themselves from the yoke of the tyranny that they live under. I don’t criticize what the pope is doing. I understand what his calling is. One of his things he’s trying to achieve is more space for the Catholic church in the island, to be able to carry out its mission of saving souls.
HARWOOD: Does it give you any pause to know that your parents left 60 years ago, and you’ve never set foot in Havana? Doesn’t that make you question the vehemence of your views?
RUBIO: No. Because I interact with people all the time that have just come from there, dissidents that come here and go back. I’m not operating in a vacuum, and I’m not operating out of things I read in a book. I’m dealing with people, I’m dealing with dissidents that come to the U.S. and speak to us about what’s happening. I have that benefit of that interaction combined with the benefit of understanding U.S. policy towards Cuba, and understanding the history behind it, and the nature of this regime.
Most Americans don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. And most of the public policy leaders in our country don’t know a lot about the true nature of the Castro regime and what’s happening there. And what’s happening there is very simple: Raul Castro is transitioning that government eventually towards a succession that will involve his son as the leader of that country. What they’re looking for is enough revenue to allow that system of government they have in place to sustain itself for the long term. And this opening, this one-sided opening will make it easier for him to achieve that goal. And that means the Cuban people will never have freedom.