At Iowa Forum, GOP Candidates Sound Off on Obama's Cuba Policy

Sunday, March 8, 2015
From Daily Mail:

'You don't give them ice cream and candy for heaven's sake': At Iowa cattle call GOP presidential hopefuls hit Obama for negotiating with 'horrible' Castro regime in Cuba

Bruce Rastetter, a major player in the renewable energy sector, asked them if they support the opening of trade with communist Cuba

'When you've got [them] doing terrible things to their people, you don't give them ice cream and candy for heaven's sake,' Mike Huckabee said

Chris Christie referenced Black Liberation Army member Joanne Chesimard and said the U.S. shouldn't be trading with a country that is 'promoting someone who is a cop-killer'

Rick Perry said Obama 'really missed the point' of sanctions and had 'basically empowered the Castro regime' by renewing high-level relations

Ted Cruz said he is an 'emphatic advocate of free trade' but doesn't support it with Cuba. 'The Castros have been brutal dictators'

'The simple fact is it looks more like North Korea than a country that's emerging toward a freer place,' former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said of Cuba 

GOP presidential candidates who flocked to Iowa on Saturday for an agricultural summit hosted by a Republican mega donor lit into the Obama administration over its willingness to negotiate with countries that have 'terrible' track records.

'When you've got the Iranians and the Cubans doing terrible things to their people, you don't give them ice cream and candy for heaven's sake,' former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said after the event's host, Bruce Rastetter, a major player in the renewable energy sector, asked him if he supported the opening of trade with communist country.

Responding to the same question during his 20-min Q and A with Rastetter, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie referenced Black Liberation Army member Joanne Chesimard and argued that the U.S. shouldn't be trading with a country that is 'promoting someone who is a cop-killer.'

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said President Barack Obama 'really missed the point' of sanctions on Cuba and had 'basically empowered the Castro regime' by renewing high-level diplomatic relations.

'This is a regime that has been incredibly onerous to the people of Cuba,' the 2012 presidential candidate said.

If the point of the shift in Cuba policy was to put the country's people in a 'better position,' Perry said, Obama's plan failed.

'I'm not sure you're ever going to change the culture of Cuba until Castro is dead and gone,' Perry said, not specifying whether he was talking about the country's previous dictator Fidel, or his brother, Raul, who now runs the country.

'I think we got a bad deal. I think the Cuban people got a bad deal,' he said, stressing that the exchange of three Cuban spies for aid worker Alan Gross' release wasn't enough.

'In my opinion, we got the way short end of that deal,' Perry added.

Huckabee said that the U.S. should 'quit pretending that Cuba is some wonderful nation with whom we can sit down and visit with any more than the Iranians are.'

'They're not,' Huckabee, a 2008 GOP presidential contender and likely 2016 competitor, he stated 'These are untrustworthy people who never kept an agreement in their lives.'

Furthermore, Huckabee, said they, 'they kick their people in the groin.'

'You don't go around making plans to be nice to people who do horrible things,' he argued during an extended critique of the current occupant of the Oval Office's relations with foreign governments.

'You put pressure on them, you don't release the pressure.'

Continuing, he said, 'I mean, my gosh, if my parents had raised me that way, I'd be a monster.

'My parents corrected my bad behavior. They didn't encourage it by rewarding me with ice cream and candy every time I did something horrible.'

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said 'any efforts taken by the Obama administration right now have not gotten anything in return.'

'Cuban dissidents are still in prison. The economy is controlled by a handful of what we would call, basically party apparatchiks. In the regime there's no small business development,' he asserted.

'All the economy built up by Cuba – the simple fact is it looks more like North Korea than a country that's emerging toward a freer place,' he claimed.

Bush said a 'better approach would have been to say to Cuba, to the regime, "You make these changes and of course we will open up diplomatic relations. Of course we will open up trade." '

That would ultimately create 'great opportunities.'

'But right now this is not something that we should be doing unless there's big-time changes in Cuba,' he concluded.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said he is an 'emphatic advocate of free trade' but, 'I don't support it with regard to Cuba.'

'The Castros have been brutal dictators,' he said, and 'they are exporting terrorism throughout the hemisphere.'

Last year, Cuba was caught trying to send a shipment of arms to North Korea. Pyongyang recently paid a nearly $700,000 fine to the Panama Canal Authority for attempting to traffic arms.

'We've gotta be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,' the freshman lawmaker said.

President Obama's actions will 'directly prop up the Castros,' Cruz said.

Noting that he would be 'thrilled' to open up trade with Cuba, Cruz said he would only support it 'once we see freedom returned to the nation of Cuba.' That means free elections and free speech, he explained.

Christie said the U.S. shouldn't be doing any business with Cuba until it stops harboring a fugitive who killed a New Jersey police officer in 1977.

'You cannot start trading with a country that is promoting someone who is a cop-killer,' he said of Chesimard.

The 67-year-old escaped from a New Jersey prison in 1979 and has been hiding out in Cuba since at least 1984, when Fidel Castro's regime granted her asylum.

'If they're going to keep harboring fugitives,' he said, 'I have a problem with that ... The president doesn't know how to negotiate. You don't give away the idea of trading with America for nothing.'

Raul Castro's regime refused last week to extradite Chesimard, who now goes by the name of Assata Olugbala Shakur.

'I can say it is off the table,' Gustavo Machin, deputy director for American affairs at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Yahoo News while discussing the latest round of trade negotiations between the U.S. and his country.

Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s Head Of North American Affairs, had previously rejected a deal that would have released five Cuban prisoners being held in the U.S. if his country handed over Chesimard.

'Every nation has sovereign and legitimate rights to grant political asylum to people it considers to have been persecuted,' she told the Associated Press in December.

'We’ve explained to the U.S. government in the past that there are some people living in Cuba to whom Cuba has legitimately granted political asylum.'

Both Texas politicians who spoke at the summit said that unlike Cuba, they support trade with China.

China is different, Perry said, because it basically practices communism at night and capitalism in day time.

Cruz, who spoke after Perry, said that 'with China you can make direct investment.'

'You can directly trade with the people,' which you can't do in Cuba, where workers paid just eight cents of every dollar, Cruz said.