From Yesterday's Senate Hearing

Friday, February 18, 2011
Under Rubio Questioning, Obama Administration Admits To "Risk" Of Cuba Travel

Washington, D.C. – Today, at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Global Narcotics, Senator Marco Rubio challenged the Obama administration's policy easing regulations regarding travel and remittances to Cuba. Questioned by Senator Rubio, Assistant Secretary Arturo Valenzuela admitted both that there are "risks" to American citizens who would travel to Cuba under the Obama administration's new policy – especially in light of the case of Alan Gross – and that the Castro regime would financially benefit from the easing of travel regulations.

Given The Case Of Alan Gross, The Obama Administration Admits Americans Are At Risk Traveling To Castro's Cuba

Sen. Rubio: "But is the State Department prepared to begin advising both Cuban Americans and non-Cuban Americans traveling to Cuba what you just said—that there are risks to traveling in Cuba?"

Valenzuela: "I think that, you know, I don't know whether there's some specific guidance on that, but I think that there is an awareness that there is a risk and that we, you know, institutions that send…I was a professor at Georgetown, and when our students would go down on a license to Cuba, we always were mindful of that fact that they needed to be careful."

Sen. Rubio: "But specifically, based on your testimony and what we've read about in this particular case and others, isn't it wise, or would it be unwise, to advise people looking to travel to Cuba: Be careful how much contact you make because you upset the Cuban government, you may be jailed and face 20 years, and by the way, we might not be able to do much at all. In fact, what have we done with the case of this U.S. citizen?"

Obama Administration Admits The Castro Regime Does Financially Benefit From Easing Cuba Travel

Sen. Rubio: "What I'm trying to get at is that you have to get a Cuban passport, which is money directly to the Cuban government, a source of revenue. Then you got to get a ticket to a charter company, which is the business partner for the Castro government, revenue to the Cuban government. Then when you land, you get hit with an entry fee, which is direct revenue to the Cuban government. Then, they make you change your currency, which they take 20% of, revenue to the Cuban government. Estimates are that about $4 billion a year flow directly to the Cuban government from remittances and travel by Cuban Americans, which is perhaps the single largest source of revenue to the most repressive government in the region."

Valenzuela: "The remittances to Cuba are a large number too, but let me just simply say this—that there may be some ancillary benefits to the Cuban government, but it is our view that to be able to have direct contact with the Cuban people, that Americans have direct contact with the Cuban people, will provide them with a kind of space that will allow them to become much more independent of the regime."

Here's a video clip of the exchange: