Senate Dem: Raul Castro Has 'More Blood on His Hands' Than Fidel
Surrounded by members of the Union of Cuban Ex-Political Prisoners, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) warned that Cuban President Raul Castro is not the softer Castro brother that some make him out to be but has "more blood on his hands" than Fidel.
Menendez spoke Saturday in Union City, N.J., in front of walls filled with framed photos of people detained, tortured and killed by the Castro regime.
The senator said the images "remind us of what Fidel Castro's legacy is truly all about."
Menendez said he woke up to hundreds of emails from friends and Castro opponents expressing joy at the death of Castro, 90, "and I understand what they meant -- but today I find no real joy."
"Too many families have been torn apart, too many killed and imprisoned, too many tortured, too many hungry, a nation destroyed and millions enslaved. And a Castro still rules 11 million Cubans with an iron fist," he said.
"Time has made Americans numb to those harsh realities. But for the people of Cuba, they are the nightmare they live every day. Time weakened our resolve and so the Obama administration two years ago made enormous one-sided concessions to the Castro regime only to see two years of greater repression instead of greater freedom."
Menendez stressed that since Obama announced detente with Cuba, "political repression in Cuba is at a historic high," with the number of Cubans fleeing the island "risen to levels not seen since the 1994 Flight of Rafters."
"Violations of religious freedom have increased tenfold and the small private sector businesses promised under reform have turned negative," he added.
The passing of Castro, the senator emphasized, should be a time for the United States to reflect and "recalibrate" policy toward the communist regime.
"Instead of condoning the continuation of a repressive regime simply because it's been around long enough, the United States and the international community must stand up and support the Cuban people -- support democracy activists, independent journalists and human right leaders, as we did with Lech Walesa in Poland, as we did with Vaclav Havel in the Czech Republic, as we did with Soviet Jewry in the former Soviet Union," Menendez continued. "We need to stop the economic lifeline the Obama administration has given the Castro regime through a flood of U.S. dollars and lowered restrictions."
"And we need to say to Raul Castro what we said to Burma, no less: Release all political prisoners. Hold free elections. Permit a free press. Let the UN Commission on Human Rights enter the country. And then you can have a relationship with the United States."