Marco Rubio Criticizes Cuba for Delaying Prisoner Release

AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa
AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa

There isn’t much for the United States in any of President Obama’s lame-duck fire sale deals with foreign dictators. One of the very, very few things Cuba was expected to do, in exchange for billions of dollars pumped into the Castro’s pockets by relaxed U.S. sanctions, was release some of the political prisoners rotting in its dungeons. How’s that coming along, Reuters?

The Cuban government is resisting the release of several of the 53 people the U.S. government has said were to be freed as part of a thaw in relations, linking them to acts of violence, a congressional aide told Reuters.

“We’ve been told that the Cuban government has agreed to release all but several of the political prisoners on the list,” the aide said.

“The government in Havana believes that the smaller group has committed acts of violence,” the aide said.

No specific number of prisoners was provided.

Wow, that’s such a dismaying surprise. The Castro regime seemed like such a trustworthy bunch.

As is par for the course with the “most transparent administration in history,” this whole deal has been conducted under a ridiculous cloud of obfuscation. Not even Congress has been informed about the identities of all the prisoners on the release list, and the administration won’t officially confirm how many prisoners have actually been released. Secrecy helps the Obamanoids contain the embarrassment from their failures, as anyone who followed the Bowe Bergdahl debacle may recall.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), one of the most outspoken critics of Obama’s Cuba policy, wrote a stern letter to the President on Tuesday:

Throughout its history, the Cuban dictatorship has used the revolving door of its political prisons to extract concessions, and it seems to be doing so once again. Moreover, the regime seems to be emboldened by its negotiations with your Administration and its unearned diplomatic recognition. It is unfathomable that while your Administration was holding secret talks with the Cuban dictatorship, political arrests totaled 8,899 in 2014, according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation – quadrupling 2010 levels, and approximately 2,000 more than in 2013.

Even your announcement that Cuba has agreed to release 53 current political prisoners remains shrouded in doubt and secrecy. To date, no information has been provided ab out the political prisoners to be released – regarding their identities, conditions or whereabouts, even on a confidential basis, to members of Congress. Just yesterday, your own State Department was unable to provide an explanation about the political prisoners in question. How is the United States supposed to hold the Cuban dictatorship responsible for the well-being of these political prisoners if your Administration is unable or unwilling to provide this transparency?

As Rubio went on to acidly note, the terms of Obama’s lousy deal make holding the Castro regime accountable irrelevant as well as impossible, since the administration has already made clear that “there will be no human rights conditionality to America’s normalization of relations.”

Rubio urged the President to correct this deficiency by cancelling “the travel of Administration officials to Cuba to further discuss the normalization of diplomatic relations at least until all 53 political prisoners, plus those arrested since your December 17th announcement, have been released and are no longer subjected to repression that often takes the form of house arrests, aggressive surveillance, denied Internet access, forced exile, and other forms of harassment.”

The Senator is correct to call for this rather mild effort at holding Cuba to its minimal promises, but he probably knows it’s not going to happen. Obama’s deal with Cuba was intended as a one-way transfer of American money and prestige—a victory for Cuba, a sop to the hardcore American Left, and a repudiation of the foreign policy supported by Obama’s predecessors. Obama’s not going to ruin all that by picking fights with the Castro boys over a few political prisoners. He might be a bit testy with them for making him look bad, but by keeping the details of his arrangement with them secret, he can minimize the damage to his prestige. At some point soon, the administration will declare itself completely satisfied with whatever prisoner releases Havana gives it. The unknown names that never got crossed off Obama’s unseen list will be forgotten.