Chairman Menendez Responds to The New York Times' Cuba Editorial

Thursday, October 16, 2014
By U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in The New York Times:

Re “The Moment to Restore Ties to Cuba” (editorial, Oct. 12):

To suggest that critical foreign policy challenges facing President Obama around the world should motivate him to normalize relations with Cuba could not be more counterproductive.

Why would President Obama see it in our strategic interest to waste finite diplomatic resources on a country that abuses human rights and diametrically opposes our democratic ideals, at a time when the Islamic State is waging a brutal war and Russia continues to undermine all international norms through its continuing invasion of Ukraine?

Cuba’s reputation and American policy aren’t relics of the past. Cuba still silences dissent on the island, with more than 7,500 political arrests documented this year alone. An American contractor, Alan Gross, remains imprisoned on false charges, and Cuba last year tried to smuggle illegal weapons to North Korea in violation of Security Council sanctions.

Cuba’s heralded economic reforms are a euphemism for foreign investors to funnel money to state-owned enterprises and military monopolies. A select few enjoy prosperity while ordinary citizens are denied even basic needs. Instead, we’ve seen a rise of Cubans fleeing on rafts, as you reported last week.

I meet with the Cuban opposition, including Berta Soler, leader of Ladies in White, as do President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. The dissidents passionately argue against lifting sanctions without reciprocity by Cuba.

Give the Cuban regime an inch, and it will take a mile.

Ill-conceived political or economic engagements rewarding tyranny do not represent American values, nor are they in the national interest.