Tag Archives: Marco Rubio

Inside Marco Rubio’s campaign to shape Trump’s Cuba crackdown


Worried about bureaucratic pushback to preserve Obama’s normalization, the Florida senator went directly to the president with a plan in May.

Facing President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio issued a blunt warning: The administration’s plan to crack down on Cuba trade and travel was under threat.

Any effort by Trump to make good on his campaign promise to roll back former President Barack Obama’s historic accord with Raul Castro would be delayed, Rubio cautioned—not just from the Castro government and from outside business interests, but from within. It would be studied to death by government analysts who favor more engagement with Cuba, not less. It would be leaked to the news media. Stillborn with a thousand excuses by the bureaucrats.

So go it alone, Rubio told the president during their May 3 meeting.

“What you’ve committed to do on Cuba, what you want to do on Cuba, is never going to come from career staff. It’s going to have to come from the top down. You’re going to have to tell them what to do,” Rubio recalled telling the president as his fellow Miami Republican member of Congress, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, nodded in agreement.

“The career service people, in the State Department and Treasury and in other places, are not in favor of changing this policy,” Rubio recalled telling the president.

That one piece of advice from Rubio probably marks the moment that Trump’s Cuba policy achieved escape velocity, according to interviews with eight officials who helped craft or had knowledge of the drafting of Trump’s Cuba policy as well as correspondence and documents shared with POLITICO.

On Friday, the president will appear in Miami, the home base of the Cuban-American exile community to announce the new crackdown on Cuba.

The policy bears the unmistakable fingerprints of Rubio — a Trump antagonist during the Republican primary campaign last year who has grown increasingly close to Trump — and Diaz-Balart, also a staunch critic of Obama’s moves to normalize ties with the island nation. Continue reading Inside Marco Rubio’s campaign to shape Trump’s Cuba crackdown

Rubio says administration lied about security on Cuba flights


Fox News

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is accusing the Obama administration of “lying” to Congress about the security on U.S.-Cuba commercial flights — saying officials have failed to follow through on a commitment to place federal air marshals on board those routes.

In a letter to President Obama on Monday, the Florida senator noted that at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing last week, Transportation Security Administration official Huban Gowadia confirmed there are no air marshals on board commercial flights to Cuba.

Yet at a May 17 Homeland Security subcommittee hearing, Department of Homeland Security official Seth Stodder said an air marshal agreement was being negotiated and flights would not begin without one.

“You and your administration’s lack of concern for the American people’s safety — as evidenced by allowing commercial, non-charter flights between the U.S. and Cuba to commence without the presence of federal air marshals, and lying about it to Congress — is further proof that you are putting your legacy ahead of the safety and security of the American people, including the people of Florida,” Rubio wrote.

Rubio, who is locked in a tough re-election race, said Gowadia’s revelation contradicts earlier claims by the administration that an agreement to include air marshals was finalized.

“Simply put, your administration has been caught in a bold-faced lie that has put American lives at risk,” Rubio said.

Rubio, along with New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, introduced legislation earlier this month — the Cuban Airport Security Act — that would stop flights to Cuba until a study was completed regarding the security measures at Cuba’s airports.

Commercial flights to Cuba began at the end of August, and Rubio called it “astonishing” that this was allowed to happen “under the false pretense that there would be federal air marshals on board.”

“You have created an opportunity for our worst fears to become reality, just as they did on September 11, 2001,” he wrote.

Rubio asked Obama when he expects the Cuban government to sign the agreement on air marshals, what the TSA is doing to mitigate security risks, and if any White House official instructed the TSA to allow flights before “appropriate security procedures” were in place.

He also requested copies of the draft federal air marshal agreement with Cuba.

In a statement to FoxNews.com, a TSA spokesman said while it does not comment on particular security arrangements, the agency is working with Cuba to ensure there is a federal air marshal presence on flights when necessary.

“Based on several years of security assessments and routine public charter air service between the United States and Cuba, TSA is confident that all commercial flights from points of origin in Cuba to the United States meet international standards and additional security measures that are required by the United States Government,” the spokesman said.

American Airlines, one of the airlines running flights to and from Cuba, objected to the assertions in Rubio’s letter.

“We don’t speak about security, but the safety of our passengers, our people, and our equipment is of the utmost importance and we do not use use airports that do not meet the highest standards of safety for scheduled or chartered flights,” a spokeswoman for American Airlines told The Miami Herald.

Cuba airport security causes senators to call for pause in U.S.-Cuba flights


CBS News

Last week, regularly-scheduled commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba took off for the first time in more than fifty years. Now, a bipartisan pair of senators has submitted legislation to ground those planes over what they say are airport security concerns.

Senators Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, and Marco Rubio, R-Florida, have submitted legislation to that would pause the Cuba-US routes until an assessment of Cuban aviation safety could be completed.

Is Cuba ready for a boom in U.S. tourism?

“With so many serious security threats around the world, it is irresponsible to leave key aspects of our airport security in the hands of anti-American, repressive regime in Cuba,” Rubio said in a statement.

But the Transportation Security Administration says it has reviewed operations at eight of the 10 Cuban airports set to provide commercial flights to and from the U.S. and that all met international standards.

TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger, who was to meet with members of Congress Thursday, told CBS News earlier this summer that his agency “will ensure that they in fact meet all of those requirements that we put in place at last points of departure.”

Currently, the United States and the Republic of Cuba have an agreement allowing federal air marshals on board certain passenger flights between the two nations. But Menendez says it’s not enough.

“Cuba is a totalitarian dictatorship that continues to harbor American hijackers and terrorists as heroes…and remains a strategic ally of some of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations,” he said. “Every airport worker is employed directly by the regime, and its airports lack the technology and security capabilities we’ve grown to expect in the United States.”

Excitement over first flights from U.S. to Cuba

While Cuba, a nation of more than 11 million about 90 miles south of Key West, Florida, has been largely off limits to the United States for 55 years, it is a major tourist destination from Canada, Europe, Latin America and Russia. Dozens of international airlines serve Cuba each day.

Scheduled commercial airline service from the U.S. ended in 1961 after the communist government of Fidel Castro rose to power, and nationalized foreign assets (many of them belonging to American companies). The Cuban missile crisis brought the world to brink of nuclear war, after the Castro regime allowed Russian missiles to be set up, prompting the ongoing U.S. embargo.

But even before Jetblue flight 387 left Fort Lauderdale with 150 passengers August 31st bound for Cuba, on average 17 charter flights travel between the U.S. and the island nation daily. The charter flights have existed for years, and all of the passengers on those flights passed through Cuban airport security without legislation from Congress to stop it.

CBS News was on that first commercial flight to Santa Clara, Cuba’s fifth largest city. Our experience was far from a comprehensive review of airport security. We found it to be similar to screenings at airports around the world, but with a few quirks.

Upon arrival in Cuba, our bags were x-rayed with equipment resembling those seen in American airports. Each passenger passed through a magnetometer. Some were also “wanded” with a handheld metal detector. Security officers would not allow bottled water past the checkpoint and held a safety razor (used for shaving) for no clear reason. When asked why water couldn’t enter the terminal, the officer simply said it wasn’t allowed.

Our photojournalist was allowed to keep his water. Prior to heading for customs, the razor was returned, and we were screened again. At the Santa Clara airport, we did not see body scanners.

After checking into our return flights and clearing immigration in Havana, the security checkpoint at Jose Marti International Airport’s Terminal 3, looked a lot like security at many small airports in the U.S. There were several lanes closed — and just one screening passengers. While the line wasn’t long, the process was slow. Bags were x-rayed, passengers passed through metal detectors, and in some cases were also ‘wanded’ by a handheld scanner. This terminal appeared to have one body scanner station.

Our CBS News crew was selected for additional screening, our bags were emptied and examined. Security officers express particular concern over several old books we purchased.

The senators’ Cuban Airport Security Act follows a similar measure introduced by Congressman John Katko, R-New York, in July. Earlier in the summer members of the House Homeland Security Committee were denied visas to enter Cuba for a trip to examine airport security there.

On the day the senate bill was announced American Airlines began rolling out its service to Cuba with a flight to Cienfuegos. The Department of Transportation has authorized up to 110 daily flights from the U.S. to Cuba on 10 carriers. Flights to the island’s capitol city are expected to begin in November.

Statement by Sen. Marco Rubio about Obama’s trip to Cuba


On Sunday, President Obama will touch down in Cuba for what promises to be one of the most disgraceful trips ever taken by a U.S. president anywhere in the world. This is an Obama presidential trip whose ultimate results will be giving away legitimacy and money to an anti-American regime that actively undermines our national security interests and acts against our values every single day. President Obama’s entourage will sleep in hotels controlled by the Cuban military that were confiscated by the regime and are among the $7 billion in unpaid legal claims owed to American property owners. When President Obama arrives in Havana on Sunday, he will visit Catholic Church sights and church officials, yet he’s inexplicably expected to skip St. Rita Church, where the Ladies In White have shed much blood and received routine beatings at the hands of the Castro regime for simply demanding their loved ones’ freedom.

On Monday, President Obama will showcase the most damaging part of his Cuba policy: the lawless, one-sided weakening of the LIBERTAD Act that seeks to enrich American businesses and the Castro regime’s police state, without any concessions from Cuba that lead to greater freedoms for the Cuban people. The Obama-Castro state dinner promises to be another low point of this visit, one that I fully expect will be attended by some of the Castro regime’s biggest low-lifes who will seek to exploit this opportunity to mock this president, his administration and the American people.

On Tuesday, the irony should not be lost on anyone that President Obama will be giving a speech at yet another property confiscated by the Castro regime. President Obama’s decision to end his trip at a baseball game is a fitting symbol of this trip and of his entire Cuba policy: he thinks this is a game. What’s not a game is the repression, intimidation and exploitation Cuba’s baseball players face and that has led to many of them defecting the first chance they get, and that would probably lead some of them, should they be able to meet and speak freely with President Obama, to ask him directly for asylum and a flight to freedom on Air Force One.

As a whole, President Obama’s trip to Cuba and his policy of one-sided concessions to this regime are as naïve as his world view and as misguided as his foreign policy affecting other parts of the world. America should be standing with our allies and democracy advocates around the world, not embracing, enriching and empowering our enemies, the way President Obama is about to do in Cuba.

Vox World: Watch: Rubio’s brutal response to Trump on Cuba


Watch the video: Vox World

Who knows if anything at a debate will ever hurt Donald Trump. But if anything should matter in the absolutely critical state of Florida, it’s the above exchange with Marco Rubio at CNN’s Thursday debate.

Anchor Jake Tapper was pressing Trump on whether he would continue Obama’s outreach to Cuba. Trump’s answer was vague nonsense: he talked about Cuba suing America somehow, and then said “I would want to make a good deal, a strong, solid, good deal.”

Tapper forced the issue, asking Trump whether he would close the Cuban embassy or keep it open. Trump said that “I would probably have the embassy closed until a really good deal was made and struck by the United States.”

And that’s when Rubio pounced:

First of all, the embassy, the the former consulate, it’s the same building. We can just go back to calling it the consulate. We don’t have to close it that way.

Secondly I don’t know where they’re going to sue us. But if they sue us in a court in Miami, they’re going to lose.

Third, on the issue of a good deal is: I know what a good deal is, it’s already codified.

Here is a good deal. Cuba has free elections, Cuba stops putting people in jail for speaking out. Cuba has freedom of the press. Cuba kicks out the Russians from Lourdes, and kicks out the Chinese listening station at Bejucal. Cuba it stops helping North Korea invade [sic] U.N. Sanctions. Cuba takes all of those fugitives from American justice, including the cop killer from New Jersey and send her back to the United States, to jail where she belongs.

And you know what? Then we can have a good relationship with Cuba. That’s a good deal.

Cue massive applause.

Politically, Rubio’s answer was devastatingly good. His first two points highlight that Trump has literally no understanding of the details of Cuba policy — an issue that matters greatly to Florida’s politically influential Cuban-American community. The last part of his answer is the kind of hard line on Cuba that’s popular among Cuban-American conservatives, many of whom fled the revolution and haven’t forgiven the Castro regime for their dispossession.

Substantively, Rubio’s position — keep up the US embargo on commerce with and travel to Cuba until they democratize — is a proven failure. The US embargo has been in place for decades, in various forms, and has had no discernible effect on Cuba’s human rights record. It is currently opposed by 97 percent of the world’s countries as well as a majority of Americans. There are very good reasons why Barack Obama is working to end the embargo.

But Rubio’s line is incredibly popular with a key Republican constituency in Florida: conservative Cuban-Americans like Rubio himself. Rubio understands the state he represents, and wielded that knowledge very effectively against Trump at Thursday’s debate.

Whether that can close the gap between him and Trump in the Florida polls, however, remains to be seen.

Juan Williams: Obama’s Cuban mistake


The Hill

Let me open a personal wound.

When I was four years old, my mother took me, my brother and sister out of Panama. My parents wanted to escape poverty and open the doors to education and opportunity for their children.

Those doors shut in Panama thanks to a Castro-like populist dictator named Arnulfo Arias. He jailed, tortured and oppressed anyone who did not obey his regime.

He discriminated against dark-skinned people, blacks, Asians and native people – many of whom, like my grandfather, died building the Panama Canal. The repression extended to confiscating property and even trying to take away Panamanian citizenship from people like my father, who had come from Jamaica.

America’s left-wing academics and Hollywood celebrities have long romanticized Latin American strongmen as righteous revolutionaries, opposed to mid-20th century American military and business dominance of the region.

But to people living in those nations, the reality is that the revolutionaries became cruel, oppressive dictators in the case of Arias, the late Venezuela President Hugo Chavez and most of all, Fidel Castro.

Given my scars, President Obama’s trip to Cuba later this month leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

To me, it is painful to see the president of a nation based on individual liberty and protection of rights under law have to keep silent about the thousands of people who have suffered oppression at the hands of the Castro regime.

It is not that I don’t understand what the president is trying to do by restoring full U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba after a half century of isolation.

I get it that sanctions, embargoes, even attempted invasion have not improved human rights in Cuba. Obama’s premise is that an infusion of Americans, with ideas and money, will lead the Cuban people to demand a more open and free society He can point to the history of President Nixon’s successful outreach to China as a model for creating a new political dynamic with old enemies.

The idea is like a long-term investment. But the reality of the moment is that the president has normalized relations without obtaining a schedule for resumption of democratic freedoms, human rights and property rights for the Cuban people.

The release of 53 political prisoners by Cuba last January looks like window dressing to international human rights watchdogs who describe the reality of progress on Cuban human rights as a myth.

The Wall Street Journal noted in a recent editorial that since Obama’s change in policy, “the number of individuals jailed arbitrarily has gone up. This past January, according to the Madrid-based Cuban Observatory on Human Rights, some 1,474 individuals were jailed at the regime’s whim, more than 500 of them women.”

“The Cuban government continues to repress dissent and discourage public criticism,” according to the website of U.S.-based Human Rights Watch.

“It now relies less on long-term prison sentences to punish its critics, but short-term arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders, independent journalists, and others have increased dramatically in recent years. Other repressive tactics employed by the government include beatings, public acts of shaming, and the termination of employment.”

Yet another respected observer of human and political rights, Amnesty International, comes to a similar conclusion on its website:

“Despite increasingly open diplomatic relations, severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and movement continued. Thousands of cases of harassment of government critics and arbitrary arrests and detentions were reported.”

Even with those disturbing assessments of the Cuban human rights record, the American people support Obama’s diplomatic approach. A Pew Poll from last summer found that 73 percent of Americans favor the Obama policy of normalizing relations with Cuba. And 72 percent favor lifting the five-decades-old trade embargo.

The Pew poll also found that a whopping 83 percent of Democrats favor normalization and 82 percent back lifting the embargo. Even a majority of Republicans – 56 percent – stand with Obama on reopening relations and 59 percent want the embargo lifted.

In Miami, just 90 miles from Cuba and home to so many who fled the Castro regime, young people of Cuban heritage are increasingly vocal in their support for new U.S. policies allowing closer ties between Cuba and the U.S.

The same is true among the Cuban people. In April 2015, a poll by Univision and The Washington Post found Cubans unhappy with their political structure and overwhelmingly in support of stronger ties with the U.S.

But for all the promises, political rights remain absent.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a man of Cuban heritage, argues that the Castro regime has won “access to millions if not billions of dollars in resources they didn’t have access to before this opening” without significant retreat from hardline communist policies.

Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP nomination, also agrees it is time for a new American policy in dealing with Cuba but in tune with Rubio he concludes, “We should have made a better deal.”

The president will take in an exhibition baseball game between the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Cuban national team during his visit to Cuba.

It will be fun. But to my mind, knowing what my father went through in Panama, it is hard to match fun and games with the reality of ongoing repression in Cuba.

Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel.

Rubio: Obama’s Intent Is ‘to Empower the Cuban Government,’ Not the Cuban People


The Blaze

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American, expressed outrage over the Obama administration’s decision to further relax sanctions on Cuba.

“The Obama administration’s one-sided concessions to Cuba further empower the regime and enable it with an economic windfall,” Rubio, a Florida senator, said in a statement Tuesday. “These regulations are more proof that the Obama administration’s intent has never been to empower the Cuban people but rather to empower the Cuban government’s monopolies and state-run enterprises.”

The Obama administration announced more changes in relations with Cuba Tuesday, including the lifting of additional export, financial and travel sanctions, which is set to happen Wednesday.

“Our U.S. policy toward Cuba should be driven by our national security interests, securing greater political freedoms and defending the human rights of the Cuban people, none of which are advanced through Obama’s latest concessions,” Rubio added.

“By expanding people-to-people ties, business opportunities, and greater access to information, we are promoting the transformation of our relationship in ways that advance U.S. interests and improve the lives of the Cuban people,” White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “The President has repeatedly underscored that our Cuba policy has changed, and supports increasing connections between the people of the United States and Cuba.”

Price insisted it would expand human rights.

“Engagement and purposeful steps like those announced today will continue to empower the Cuban people and advance our enduring objectives of supporting human rights, improving the lives of the Cuban people, and promoting closer ties between our peoples,” Price added.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said the changes build on the administration’s policies since President Barack Obama normalized relations with the Castro regime in December 2014.

“Today’s amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations build on successive actions over the last year and send a clear message to the world: the United States is committed to empowering and enabling economic advancements for the Cuban people,” Lew said in a statement. “We have been working to enable the free flow of information between Cubans and Americans and will continue to take the steps necessary to help the Cuban people achieve the political and economic freedom that they deserve.”

Marco Rubio: Obama not doing enough to stop Cuba migrant crisis



Sen. Marco Rubio used the Cuban migrant crisis approaching U.S. borders on Thursday to lambast President Barack Obama’s policies toward Cuba as laughable.

The Cuban-American Republican senator from Florida was asked what he would do about Cuba as president on Thursday at an Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security forum in New Hampshire.

He attacked Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba, saying the U.S. made “major concessions” and Cuba changed “nothing” in how they behave in return, including harboring fugitives, collaborating with U.S. enemies and oppressing its citizens.

“Cuba oppresses its people so bad that today we have a migratory crisis from Cuba that’s being under-reported,” Rubio said. “You literally have thousands of Cuban migrants who have gone to Costa Rica and are now working their way up Central America to cross the U.S. border because once they come into the United States, they’re legal.”

There are roughly 8,000 Cuban migrants who have been stranded in Costa Rica, and they recently began a journey through Central America to cross into the U.S. at the southern border, with the first batch of dozens arriving over the weekend.

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Continue reading Marco Rubio: Obama not doing enough to stop Cuba migrant crisis

Sen. Marco Rubio to propose bill to cut aid to Cuban migrants

Sun Sentinel


On the presidential campaign trail Thursday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said he will introduce legislation within days to address unbridled abuses of refugee aid to Cuban migrants.

Rubio joins other influential Cuban Americans in Congress calling for an end to abuses documented in a Sun Sentinel investigation in October that found welfare meant to help Cubans settle in America was instead funding life on the island.

“You now have evidence of people coming to the U.S.,” the Florida Republican told reporters in New Hampshire, and “qualifying for Social Security or other benefits and they’re moving back to Cuba and they’re collecting the checks there.”

“That’s just outrageous,” he said. “Those abuses need to be dealt with.”

At a party earlier at the Bedford, N.H., home of a woman who runs a conservative think tank, Rubio said: “I have a law that we are going to introduce this week that shuts down this issue,” according to NBC News.

Rubio’s staff confirmed to the Sun Sentinel on Thursday that the senator has been working on a bill and will release details next week.

The GOP presidential hopeful also reiterated that the U.S. needs to “re-examine” the Cuban Adjustment Act, which for decades has given Cubans a quick path to legal status and benefits in the U.S., whether they entered the country with or without permission. No other immigrant group has such easy access to the U.S. and its welfare programs.
Continue reading Sen. Marco Rubio to propose bill to cut aid to Cuban migrants

Rubio pledges to undo Obama’s Cuba thaw


The Hill

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) says he would undo much of President Obama’s diplomacy with Cuba if elected president.

“Nothing was asked of Cuba,” he said Thursday of the White House’s diplomatic thaw with the island nation earlier this year, according to The Associated Press.

“We somehow ignore the fact that 90 miles from our shores is an anti-American communist dictatorship that oppresses its people and sows instability,” Rubio added.

“We have a vested interest in ensuring there’s stability on that island, and you won’t have it as long as it’s a dictatorship,” the GOP presidential candidate continued. “People think it’s because we’re being stubborn or holding onto old policies. I’m prepared to change strategies with Cuba, but it has to be one that yields results.”

Rubio said he would downgrade the Embassy of the United States opened in Havana earlier this year if he wins the presidency, instead making the facility a diplomatic interests section, which it was before the Obama administration.

He also pledged to snap back into place restrictions on U.S. government and business dealings with Cuba.

Rubio criticized American corporate interests for blindly rushing toward Cuba’s markets.

“American companies think that they want to invest in Cuba. They have no idea what the terms are,” he said. “The terms are, you don’t own anything. You can’t go to Cuba and open a business and own it.”

He also charged that Cuba’s restrictive society presents an immediate humanitarian concern for Americans.

“As long as they’re an oppressive regime, people are going to get in rafts and leave that island and come to the U.S.,” the presidential candidate said. “It’s our Coast Guard that’s going to have to go and save their lives in those straits.”

Rubio, whose parents fled Cuba’s government before his birth, criticized current U.S. policies on Cubans seeking refuge here.

“What I have criticized — and what I think makes no sense — is that we allow people to come to this country on the Cuban Adjustment Act,” he said.

“One year and a day after they’ve arrived, they’re traveling to Cuba 15 times a year,” Rubio continued. “The laws that exist are hard to justify anymore.

“When you have people who are coming and a year and a day later they are traveling back to Cuba 15 times a year, 12 times, 10 times, 8 times, that doesn’t look like someone who is fleeing oppression.”

The American Embassy in Havana began flying a U.S. flag over its facilities for the first time in 54 years last August.

Obama announced he would begin restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba late last year following decades of tension during the Cold War.