Senator Rubio: Cuba is Not a Zoo

Tuesday, March 12, 2013
In The Hill:

Rubio: Tourists, senators treat Cuba like a 'zoo' or 'field trip'

Sen. Marco Rubio on Friday blasted those who vacation in Cuba, accusing those who visit the homeland of his parents — including some of his Senate colleagues — of exploiting those who live under the Communist regime and misunderstanding the politics at play.

“Cuba is not a zoo where you pay an admission ticket and you go in and you get to watch people living in cages to see how they are suffering,” Rubio said at a luncheon for the Cuba-Democracy PAC, video of which was posted Monday by The Shark Tank. “Cuba is not a field trip. I don’t take that stuff lightly."

Rubio said visitors propped up the Castro regime by aiding the economy of the island nation, inadvertently aiding those who oppressed the Cuban people.

"You just went to Cuba and to fulfill your curiosity — which I could’ve told you about if you’d come seen me for five minutes — you’ve left thousands of dollars in the hands of a government that uses that money to control these people that you feel sorry for," Rubio said.

Rubio took particular exception to his colleagues in the Senate who visited Cuba or argued that the embargo against the country implemented during the Cold War should be repealed.

“The thing I really get a kick out of is every year without fail three or four of my colleagues in the Senate will travel to Cuba — they’ll have their yearly meeting with Raul Castro or whoever is there and then they come back with the same story,” Rubio said.

The Florida lawmaker proceeded to imitate his colleagues.

"'Oh, we really have our finger on the way to change policy toward Cuba. What we have today is a relic of the Cold War.' That’s what they say. It is a relic of the Cold War but our policy is not the relic. The relic is the Cuban government — that’s the relic," Rubio said.

Last month, a delegation of five senators and two House members took a three-day trip to Cuba. The group was led by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.); the only Republican traveling with the group was Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). In 2012, Leahy met with Cuban president Raul Castro and other Cuban officials.