Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) attacked the Obama administration’s “accommodation and appeasement” of the Cuba’s Castro regime, calling Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Havana to reopen the American embassy “a birthday present for Fidel Castro.”
Fidel Castro, who turned 89 on Thursday, and his 84-year old brother Raul Castro, have controlled the island nation with iron fists since seizing power in the Cuban Revolution. In addition to the brutal oppression of their own people — including jailing and torturing political dissidents — the Castro regime has been active supporters of terrorist groups around the world.
As Breitbart News reported, the Castro regime has supported the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist terrorist group, and the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah. Cuba has also shielded from extradition Assata Shakur, who’s on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted Terrorists List for her role in the killing of a New Jersey State Trooper.
Despite all of this, the Obama administration pressed forward in normalizing relations with Cuba, removing it from the State Department’s list of State Sponsors of Terror back in April, and reopening the American embassy in Havana on Friday.
In response to a tweet by the White House showing the American flag once again flying over the Havana embassy (“For the first time in 54 years, the American flag flies above [the American embassy in Cuba].”), Bush shot back, “And yet the repressive communist dictatorship remains. Our flag should represent freedom and democracy.”
Bush and his fellow Floridian presidential contender, Sen. Marco Rubio, have been among the loudest critics of the Obama administration’s foreign policy regarding Cuba. Rubio’s parents were born in Cuba, and both he and Bush live in Miami, where the Cuban community has been supportive of them throughout their political careers.
Bush and Rubio have long track records opposing the easing of any sanctions against the Castro regime, and that is highly unlikely to change. Winning the support of South Florida’s Cuban Republicans will be absolutely critical for winning Florida’s presidential primary. While opinion polls show that younger generations of Cuban-Americans are less supportive of the embargo than their parents and grandparents, if either Bush or Rubio softened on the issue, it would likely result in a swing of voters to the other.
Governor Bush’s full statement:
Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Havana is a birthday present for Fidel Castro – a symbol of the Obama Administration’s acquiescence to his ruthless legacy. U.S. policy has changed, but Cuba has not. It remains an unyielding dictatorship, a tragic example of the folly of communism, and an affront to the conscience of the free nations of the Western Hemisphere.
“The accommodation of the Castro regime comes at the expense of the freedom and democracy that all Cubans deserve, but Secretary Kerry’s visit is especially insulting for Cuba’s dissidents. That courageous Cubans whose only crime is to speak out for freedom and democracy will be kept away from the official ceremony opening the U.S. Embassy is yet another concession to the Castros.
“We need an American president who will work in solidarity with a free Cuban people, if I am elected President, I will reverse Obama’s strategy of accommodation and appeasement and commit to helping the Cuban people claim their freedom and determine their future, free from tyranny. Standing up for fundamental human rights and democratic values should not be an afterthought to America’s Cuba policy, it should be its guiding principle.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.