Rubio Slams Harkin for Praising Cuba, Vows Venezuela Sanctions Effort

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) gave a fiery speech on the Senate floor slamming Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) for praising Cuba and highlighting the bloody repression faced by those protesting Nicolas Maduro's regime in Venezuela.

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Harkin has been raving about Cuba's "remarkable" healthcare ever since his recent three-day trip to the communist island.

"I heard him also talk about these great doctors that they have in Cuba. I have no doubt they’re very talented. I’ve met a bunch of them. You know where I met them? In the United States because they defected. Because in Cuba, doctors would rather drive a taxi cab or work in a hotel than be a doctor. I wonder if they spoke to him about the outbreak of cholera that they’ve been unable to control, or about the three-tiered system of health care that exists where foreigners and government officials get health care much better than that that’s available to the general population," Rubio said of Harkin's speech.

"...I heard about their wonderful literacy rate, how everyone in Cuba knows how to read. That’s fantastic. Here’s the problem: they can only read censored stuff. They’re not allowed access to the Internet. The only newspapers they’re allowed to read are Granma or the ones produced by the government."

Rubio propped up a few large photos to talk about Venezuela: the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, the murder of beauty queen Genesis Carmona, the abuse of student protesters.

"This is what they do in Venezuela. This is what the allies of the Castro regime does, this is what they export. This is what they teach. This is what they support. And it doesn’t stop here," Rubio said. "Who are Cuba’s allies in the world? North Korea. Before he fell, the dictator in Libya, the dictator in Syria, the tyrant in Moscow. This is who they line up with. This is this wonderful paradise? By the way, this in and of itself deserves attention, what’s happening in Venezuela, in our own hemisphere. It is shameful that only three heads of state in this hemisphere have spoken out forcefully against what’s happening. It is shameful that many members of Congress who traveled to Venezuela and were friendly with Chavez, some even went to his funeral, sit by saying nothing while this is happening in our own hemisphere. And this wonderful Cuban paradise government that we heard about? This is what they support."

Rubio promised to outline through the week a series of proposals including sanctions to target the Maduro regime. Maduro has called Rubio "el loco de los locos."

"Sanctions are a tool in our foreign policy toolbox, and we, as the freest nation on Earth, are looked to by people in this country, and all around the world, to stand by them in their moment of need when they clamor for freedom and liberty and human rights. They look for America to be on their side, not for America to be cutting geopolitical deals or making it easier to sell tractors to the government there. We should be clear about these things," the senator said.

"I don’t think we should stand by here with our arms crossed, watching these things happen in our hemisphere and say nothing about them. I can close by saying this: Over the last week, I have tweeted about these issues. I get thousands of retweets from students and young people, until they shut them out, in Venezuela who are encouraged by the fact that we are on their side. What they want is what we have, the freedom and the liberty. That’s what all people want. And if America and its policy-makers are not going to be firmly on the side of freedom and liberty, who in the world is? Who on this planet will? If this nation is not firmly on the side of human rights and freedom and the dignity of all people, what nation on the Earth will? And if we’re prepared to walk away from that, then I submit to you that this century is going to be a dangerous and dark one. But I don’t believe that’s what the American people want from us. Nor the majority of my colleagues."