Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) slammed the Obama administration for exchanging imprisoned aid worker Alan Gross with Cuba for three Cuban spies. Menendez calls it a dangerous precedent and one that absolves the Castro regime’s behavior.
“Let’s be clear, this was not a ‘humanitarian’ act by the Castro regime. It was a swap of convicted spies for an innocent American,” the New Jersey Democrat said in a statement. “President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government.”
Menendez — whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba — stressed that there is no “equivalence” between Gross and the spies who were released in exchange for his return.
“One spy was also convicted of conspiracy to murder for his role in the 1996 tragedy in which the Cuban military shot down two U.S. civilian planes, killing several American citizens,” he said.
Wednesday the Obama administration announced the release of Gross and an unnamed intelligence source in exchange for three Cuban spies and the reestablishment of an official relationship with Cuba.
While Menendez noted that Gross’ release is a relief for his family, the senator said it also will serve as an enticement for other dictators to use Americans as “bargaining chips.”
“Trading Mr. Gross for three convicted criminals sets an extremely dangerous precedent,” he said. “It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips. I fear that today’s actions will put at risk the thousands of Americans that work overseas to support civil society, advocate for access to information, provide humanitarian services, and promote democratic reforms.”
He concluded saying that the uptick in trade will also serve to “invite further belligerence toward Cuba’s opposition movement” and tighten the Castro regime’s hold on the Cuban people.
“Let us all remind ourselves that an untold number of ordinary people yearning for democracy remain imprisoned by the exact same tormentors that have punished Alan Gross and they, along with all Cubans, deserve a free and liberated Cuba,” Menendez said.