Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) stressed at a hearing this morning on Cuba policy that “nothing has changed” with the communist regime despite the Obama administration’s incentives.
As Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta S. Jacobson heads to Cuba tomorrow to reopen negotiations on the policy changes announced in December, Menendez has “deep concerns that the more these talks progress, the more the administration continues to entertain unilateral concessions without – in return – getting agreement on fundamental issues that are in our national interest.”
“I have not seen any movement toward greater freedom for the Cuban people,” he said at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I have not seen movement toward greater tolerance, democracy, or the rule of law. Human rights abuses continue unabated with more than 1,600 cases of arbitrary political rests this year. And, today, only days before the administration’s recommendation to remove Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism goes into effect, known terrorists continue to enjoy safe haven in Cuba. Joanne Chesimard, on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list for murdering New Jersey State Trooper, Werner Foerster, and Charles Hill, wanted for killing a New Mexico State trooper and hijacking a U.S. civilian plane – are both living in Cuba, protected by the regime.”
“Negotiations aside, hopes aside,” the senator added, “this administration’s desire to move Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list aside – Cuba’s actions have not changed. Nothing has changed. The real change will come when the Cuban people are finally free.”
Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said he still supports the Obama administration’s Cuba policy because “despite differences we may have with a government, our foreign policy should always endeavor to support that country’s people to the greatest degree possible.”
“Our disagreements with the Cuban government are well known and many,” Cardin said. “But, over time, we have allowed those disagreements to get in the way of developing a strategy that utilizes all of our resources to empower the people of Cuba.”
“Every policy initiative will inevitably come into contact with the reality that the Cuban state and, most importantly, the Cuban state’s relationship with its own citizens, have not yet changed,” committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said. “In truth, we will have to define what a normal relationship with Cuba looks like bilaterally, but also in the context of our relationship with the Americas more broadly.”