Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) blasted the Obama administration for “conceding on bedrock values” of the United States with its “dangerous and misguided” removal of Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terror.
President Obama ordered a review of Cuba’s status on the list when he announced steps to ease restrictions on the communist island back in December. He asked for the report from the State Department within six months, and received those recommendations in early April.
On April 14, Obama submitted to Congress the statutorily required report indicating his intent to pull Cuba off the list, beginning a 45-day congressional review period. That has expired, and Secretary of State John Kerry today made the final decision to rescind Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.
“The rescission of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism reflects our assessment that Cuba meets the statutory criteria for rescission,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said today. “While the United States has significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions, these fall outside the criteria relevant to the rescission of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation.”
Cuba, though, “is only more intransigent and uncompromising in its disrespect for universal values and freedoms” as it gets concessions from the United States, Menendez said.
“This approach of the U.S. giving and Cuba taking simply rewards the regime for decades of repression. The Castro regime is feeling vindicated for 50 years of brutality, making this announcement a further misstep in a profoundly flawed policy,” the senator continued.
Menendez stressed that the Castro regime “has not shown one iota of change in its actions that earned it a spot on the State Sponsor of Terrorism list.”
“Cuba still provides sanctuary to Joanne Chesimard, who remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorism List for the murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster, it recently was caught sending arms to North Korea in the single largest violation of United Nations Security Council sanctions, and also received a shipment from a Chinese arms manufacturer that was seemingly headed for Colombia’s terrorist organization FARC,” he said. “Yet today Cuba was somehow delisted from this dishonorable list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. To this day, we have not seen one substantial step toward transparent democratic elections, improved human rights, freedom of assembly, or the ability to form independent political parties and trade unions on the island.”
“It is terribly disconcerting that the list of unilateral concessions by the Obama administration continues to grow without any signs of reciprocity from a despotic and reinvigorated Castro regime. At the end of the day, decisions like this are doing nothing but depriving the Cuban people the liberties and freedoms they seek and deserve.”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who replaced Menendez as the top Dem on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after the New Jersey senator was indicted by the Justice Department, disagreed, calling the delisting “a necessary step forward in establishing a more constructive relationship with Cuba.”
“The administration has conducted a thorough review and determined the Cuban government no longer provides support for international terrorism,” Cardin said, adding “this is an important step in developing a path toward a more constructive future, but in no way does it ignore the ongoing violations of human rights in Cuba, the detentions of political dissidents, and the Cuban government’s harboring of American fugitives wanted for crimes, including the murders of U.S. law enforcement officers.”