Menendez Op-Ed in USA Today: One-Sided Deal Rewards Cuba Regime

Thursday, December 18, 2014
By Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), in USA Today:

One-sided deal rewards Cuba regime

Alan Gross is home now. His five-year imprisonment for providing Internet access to Cuba's small Jewish community was cruel, arbitrary and consistent with the behavior of the Cuban regime.

By releasing Mr. Gross in exchange for three convicted Cuban spies who conspired to commit espionage against our nation, this administration has wrongly rewarded a totalitarian regime and thrown the Cuban regime an economic lifeline.

Cuba is a repressive state, but it will now receive the support of the United States, the world's greatest democracy.

For compromising on bedrock U.S. values, we received zero commitments from the regime to change its ways, to hold free elections, permit dissent, halt censorship and free all political prisoners. We abandoned U.S. policy, while the Castro brothers' stranglehold on power just got tighter.

This swap sets an extremely dangerous precedent and invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips.

Most concerning is that the decision to open relations with Cuba fails to understand the nature of the Castro regime that has exerted its authoritarian control over the Cuban people for 55 years.

There is no reason that Cuba will reform just because the American president believes that, if he extends his hand in peace, the Castro brothers will suddenly unclench their fists.

The opposite is true.

The changes to U.S. policy are clearly intended to circumvent the intent and spirit of U.S. law and Congress. It presents a false narrative about Cuba, suggesting that the United States and not the regime is responsible for its failings.

Cuba's economic struggles are the result of 50 years of failed political and economic experiments. In Cuba, private business is controlled by the Cuban government, with the benefits flowing to the regime's political and military leadership.

Cuba should not be taken off the list of state sponsors of terrorism either. Cuba harbors American fugitive Joanne Chesimard, who is on the FBI's list of Most Wanted Terrorists for murdering New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. Cuba also colluded with North Korea to smuggle jets, missile batteries, and arms through the Panama Canal in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

These and other such actions are not the actions of a nation deserving of our engagement.

That is why the president's decision to attend the Summit of the Americas is extraordinarily disappointing. It violates our own principles, laid down in the Inter-American Democratic Charter in 2001, that the summit would be a forum for the hemisphere's democratically elected leaders.

In Cuba today, an untold number of ordinary people yearning for democracy remain imprisoned by the exact same tormentors who punished Alan Gross. They, along with all Cubans, deserve a free and liberated homeland.

That vision is less of a reality today than it was yesterday.