Rubio Urges Obama Administration to Condition Cuba Normalization

Tuesday, January 20, 2015
As a high-level U.S. delegation travels to Cuba to begin talks to normalize U.S.-Cuba relations, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today called on Secretary of State John Kerry to not normalize relations with Cuba without progress being made on key issues:

January 20, 2015

The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Kerry:

As you prepare to send a high-level delegation to Cuba this week to discuss normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, there are several issues I urge you to make central to this process. As you know, I remain skeptical of the President's decision to reward a despotic totalitarian regime that has made no promises of political reform with the status of diplomatic recognition by the United States.  That said, in the past, administrations of both political parties have conditioned normalization of relations with countries of concern on specific progress made by the country in question in resolving longstanding bilateral issues as well as their own political reforms.

To this end, just as this administration and Congress have done with Burma, I urge you to make political reforms and progress on human rights central to your discussions.

Since President Obama’s December 17th announcement of changes to the U.S.’s policy toward Cuba, there has not been any improvement in human rights conditions on the island.  Although there was a nominal release of 53 political prisoners, serious questions still remain about the conditions of their release. Numerous released prisoners have reported that they were told to halt their political activities, while others had already completed their unjust sentences when they were released.  At least five have been reportedly re-arrested since their release and some have been released but with charges still pending.

Additionally, over one hundred political activists who were separate from the list of 53 have already been targeted and arrested since President Obama's December 17th announcement. Many have also had their passports confiscated, so these activists cannot travel outside of Cuba and tell the truth about government repression.  Normalizing relations with the Castro regime without verified improvements in the situation faced by the Cuban people would not be consistent with our values as a nation.

A second issue I urge you to make central to the normalization talks is the repatriation of known terrorists and other fugitives from U.S. justice.  As you are surely aware, the FBI believes there are more than 70 fugitives from justice being provided safe-harbor by Cuba's regime.  These include Joanne Chesimard, a cop-killer on the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted Terrorists list, and Frank Terpil, a renegade CIA agent who became an assassin-for-hire and arms smuggler for Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The victims of these violent individuals, who are being openly harbored by Cuba's dictatorship, deserve justice prior to the full normalization of relations, let alone before any consideration of removing Cuba from the State Department's state-sponsors of terrorism list.  As the President of the Fraternal Order of Police recently wrote to President Obama, "The blood of American law enforcement officers doing their job on American soil is too high a price to pay for closer ties with the Cuban regime."

Finally, there are billions of dollars of outstanding American property claims against the Cuban government.  In the past, as in the case of Libya, the United States has not normalized relations with countries subject to outstanding American claims until they have been resolved or a process for their resolution has been established.  There are thousands of verified American claimants who have been waiting for decades to be compensated for the Castro regime's illegal expropriation of their property and assets. There are also billions of dollars in outstanding judgments from U.S. federal courts against the Cuban government for acts of terrorism. It has long been the intent of U.S. law that these issues must be resolved prior to normalization of relations.

I want to see a free and democratic Cuba in the near future, but that will be impossible if the United States continues to ignore these fundamental issues in your discussions with the Cuban regime. I intend to look for tangible signs of progress in these three areas as I consider any administration requests to implement the President's new Cuba policy.

Respectfully,

Marco Rubio