The State of Obama's Cuba Deal is Clearly Not Strong

Tuesday, January 20, 2015
During tonight's State of the Union address, U.S. President Barack Obama defended his December 17th deal with Cuban dictator Raul Castro.

The optics of the address in itself showed he is on the wrong-side of history.

As Obama pitched his embrace of Cuba's octogenarian dictators, sitting in the Chamber were Rosa Maria Paya, the 25-year old daughter of murdered democracy leader Oswaldo Paya, and Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez", a 43-year old former prisoner of conscience who has spent nearly half of his life in Castro's jails.

(Paya was a special guest of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, R-FL, while Antunez was a special guest of House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH.)

Rather than betting on Cuba's future -- on its young, courageous democracy leaders -- Obama chose to secretly normalize relations with its elderly oppressors.

In the speech, he chose not to call for the freedom and human rights of the Cuban people.

And while we share in the joy of American hostage Alan Gross' release, Obama chose to reward the Castro regime for imprisoning an innocent man in order to (successfully) coerce the United States.

Now he wants the U.S. Congress to endorse his deal with Castro.

So let's take a look at the current State of Obama's Cuba Deal:

- For weeks after the December 17th announcement, Obama insisted on keeping secret the list of 53 political prisoners, who were supposed to be released as part of the deal. After significant pressure from Congress and the media, the list was finally revealed. We learned that 14 of the prisoners had been released before December 17th, including Cesar Andres Sanchez Perez, who had been released nearly one-year ago. Moreover, four had completed their full sentences prior to release -- Jorge Cervantes, Eider Frometa Allen, Juan Carlos Vazquez Osoria and Eliso Castillo Gonzalez. All 53's release remains conditioned upon their political activities.

- During the Obama-Castro negotiations (July 2013-December 2014), there were over 13,000 political arrests in Cuba. As a matter of fact, the rate of political arrests doubled as soon as the negotiations began. Furthermore, at least 50 political prisoners, not included in the negotiated list of 53, remain in prison.

- Since the December 17th announcement, there have been nearly 200 new political arrests, including the re-arrest of at least three prisoners from the negotiated list of 53. There is also a new long-term prisoner of conscience, Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado "El Sexto," who was arrested on Christmas Day.

- Obama negotiated the swap of three Cuban spies imprisoned in the U.S., including one serving a life sentence in the murder conspiracy of three Americans (the daughter of one of the murdered Americans, Marlene Alejandre Triana, was also sitting in the Chamber during Obama's speech), in return for only one U.S. intelligence asset, Rolando Sarraff Trujillo. However, similar U.S. intelligence assets remain in Castro's prisons, such as Claro Alonso Hernandez, Ernesto Borges Perez, Amado Medel Martin and Maximo Omar Ruiz Matoses. Why didn't Obama at least negotiate a 3-for-3 deal?

- Rather than allowing Internet access, as Castro supposedly promised Obama, ETECSA (Cuba's telecom monopoly) has re-emphasized that only the highly limited local “Intranet” will operate. Moreover, just this week, a young Cuban computer expert, Leinier Cruz Salfran, was arrested after turning his laptop into a "hot spot," allowing other Cubans high-speed access to the Internet.

- As for access to Cuba by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on Torture, which Castro also promised Obama, mum's the word.

- The Castro regime has reiterated that it will not repatriate over 70 fugitives from U.S. justice openly being harbored in Cuba, including Joanne Chesimard, who remains on the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted Terrorists list.

- Cuban democracy leaders have had their passports withheld and are prohibited from leaving the island. These include Estado de SATS' Antonio Rodiles and Ailer Gonzalez, and Cuban artist Tania Bruguera.

- A delegation of Congressional Democrats, led by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), visited Cuba over the weekend and were shunned by General Raul Castro.

- Globally, other rogue regimes have taken note. Venezuela now also wants to swap innocent political prisoners for criminals in the United States; Iran has indicted a Washington Post reporter to coerce the Obama Administration; and North Korea wants lopsided terms for talks.

- And finally, on the eve of a U.S. delegation's arrival in Cuba to begin talks on the normalization of diplomatic relations, an armed Russian intelligence-gathering vessel that monitors U.S. communications (The Viktor Leonov), was welcomed to Havana and has been docked in clear view.

Mr. Speaker, Members of Congress, the State of Obama's Cuba Deal is clearly not strong.