'If Dissent Is Denied in Courtyard of the U.S. Embassy, It Will Never Be Allowed Anywhere in Cuba'

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) accused the Obama administration of "shameful" actions contradictory to American values as Secretary of State John Kerry prepared to raise the U.S. flag at the embassy in Havana.

“A flag representing freedom and liberty will rise today in a country ruled by a repressive regime that denies its people democracy and basic human rights. This is the embodiment of a wrongheaded policy that rewards the Castro regime's brutality at the expense of the Cuban people's right to freedom of expression and independence," Menendez said in a statement this morning.

The Cuban-American congressional contingent of Menendez, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) has been hitting hard at the White House's arrangement with Cuba, highlighting the regime's detention of dissidents since restoring relations with the U.S. and demands that America lift the embargo and give the regime financial reparations.

“This past Sunday, Cuban agents arrested over 90 peaceful protesters, and today – barely a week after this all too common demonstration of arbitrary, heavy handed police force – Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Cuba is validation of the Castro regime's repressive policies. He will meet Cuban officials in the sunlight, but not the leaders and activists of Cuban civil society who live in the shadows and are tormented by the state," Menendez said.

Rubio called the administration not inviting dissidents to the flag-raising "a new low for President Obama and a slap in the face by this administration to Cuba’s courageous democracy activists."

"Cuban dissidents are the legitimate representatives of the Cuban people and it is they who deserve America's red carpet treatment,‎ not Castro regime officials," he said. "What a pathetic policy President Obama has embarked on that shuns Cuban dissidents like this, yet has welcomed Castro regime officials to the White House.”

Menendez noted that “when our flag rises in the courtyard of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, missing will be Berta Soler of the Ladies in White, UNPACU leader Jose Daniel Ferrer, human rights activists like Guillermo Fariñas and Antunez, independent journalists and bloggers, or bereaved family members of dissidents who deserve a better future."

“It is shameful that on the grounds of our embassy in Havana, the Cuban regime can dictate to the United States government who may or may not attend this ceremony. If dissent is denied in the courtyard of the U.S. Embassy, it will never be allowed anywhere in Cuba. These are not values I associate with the United States," the New Jersey Dem continued.

“This is a one-sided deal that is a win for the Cuban regime and a loss for the Cuban people. The U.S. Embassy in Havana will be a hollow one, with the Cuban government limiting our diplomats the freedom of movement. It will be diplomacy for show, not in practice. The United States flag should only fly in Cuba when the island is free, when dissent is embraced, and when democracy is restored.”