Marco Rubio on Cuba Policy

Friday, May 7, 2010
From an interview with Florida U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio in the conservative magazine, Human Events:

HE: When we spoke a year ago, we discussed Cuba. When would you approve of lifting the economic embargo against Cuba?

Rubio: When Cuba joins the rest of the civilized world in how it treats its people. That is freeing political prisoners, it means free and fair elections. They can choose any form of government they like, but they have to have freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of expression. The fundamental rights that we believe are endowed to every human being by our Creator. That's the kind of country that I'm interested in us having a relationship with. And the embargo serves as leverage for us to be able to accomplish that. You have, as we speak right now, a number of dissidents and hunger strikes in Cuba. And their brave wives are marching every Sunday. And they're being beaten, taunted, hassled and harassed. These are women. They're called the women in white. They're providing an extraordinary example of just how repressive this regime is and how it's on the wrong side of history.

HE: So I take it you mean the recognition of the end of the embargo has to come with the end of the Castro brothers?

Rubio: Not only the end of the Castro brothers, but also political reform in the return of political freedom to the people of Cuba. The embargo gives us leverage to negotiate that. Cuba trades with every other country in the world. The fact of the matter is that the U.S. embargo is not the reason their economy is failing. Their economy is failing because they've embraced a combination of socialism and incompetence, which may be an oxymoron because they're both the same thing. The point being that I would love for the United States to have a close economic relationship with a free Cuba. I think we're going to see that very soon, God willing.

HE: Now assuming that free and fair elections were held in this new environment that you described, would you support resuming diplomatic relations before the settlement of Cuban properties.

Rubio: Before the settlement of Cuban properties in terms of their previous owners? I think that's something for the Cuban people to determine through their new political system that's in place. They have the right to that determination and to choose any form of government they please. What I'm interested in is having the United States having strong diplomatic and economic ties to a free and fair Cuba. A lot of times past, the issue of property rights there was going to have to be confronted like it was confronted in Eastern Europe. But I wouldn't impose an external mandate. I think the links between Cuban exiles and their families in Cuba are close enough that they will be able to establish some sort of an orderly process for property rights to be respected, either returned to their rightful owners or paid for their loss.

HE: That leads to another question about the Obama Administration's reverting back to the Clinton-era policy of travel and remittances by Cuban Americans to their families living on the island. Does this help the cause of freedom?

Rubio: It's hard to tell people they can't visit their dying grandmother or dying mom. And I get that and it's sad. By the way, the Bush-era policies allowed people to travel once every three years. Unfortunately, that's not what's happening. What's happening now is that the Castro government is using travel and exile travel as a way to fund its repressive regime. I also think it threatens the immigration status of Cubans. Cubans come to the United States on the basis of the Cuban Adjustment Act, which says that Cubans are exiles. Cubans are here because they have no political freedoms. But it's hard to argue you're in exile when a year and a month after you arrive, you're returning repeatedly to the country you're exiled from. How do you argue that you're an exile when exile is supposed to be people that can't return for political purposes? And after 13 months in the country, you're traveling back? It threatens the exile status of the Cuban community. And it also provides a source of hard currency for the Castro regime. They use the dollars from remittances and from travel to fund their repressive operation. I think it was wrong to lift those travel restrictions.