Florida Sens. Marcio Rubio and Rick Scott raised alarm bells over a U.S. “law enforcement dialogue” scheduled to take place with Cuba’s military dictatorship this month, an event that has some wondering if the Biden administration may remove the regime from the nation’s State Sponsor of Terrorism (SST) list.
In a Jan. 17 letter exclusively obtained by ADN, the two U.S. senators asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken, DoJ Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas to exercise extreme caution with the regime and “prioritize the Cuban people’s future and pursuit of freedom.”
“Past experiences have shown that dialogues with authoritarian regimes, especially ones that do not respect the rule of law, detrimentally affect the Cuban people’s wellbeing and desire to live freely,” the two veteran senators wrote.
“Only a policy towards Cuba that will enforce democracy and the rule of law will serve as the best foreign policy tool for our national security. It also recognizes the importance of advancing human rights protections as core to our nation’s values. Cuba remains the only country in the Western Hemisphere that has never held free and fair elections or allowed open political participation. Engagement and dialogue with Cuba should only develop and expand once the average citizen on the island has the power to determine his or her own destiny.”
State Department sources have dismissed the idea that the dialogue could be a cover to remove Cuba from the SST list, but speculation has been circulating the Cuban exile community like wildfire in Miami.
Some sources have indicated the U.S. delegation is in Cuba already, but the State Department has yet to confirm those reports.
While Rubio and Scott did not directly address the rumors surrounding the Biden administration removing Cuba from the SST list, they indirectly reminded them that there were reasons President Donald Trump listed the regime as a state sponsor of terror.
They also made clear that the White House and its appointees should be laser focused on human rights on the island.
In a stinging rebuff to President Barack Obama’s decision to start the dialogues with the totalitarian regime in areas of trade, migration, law enforcement and other policy issues, the two Florida senators warned the administration not to be gullible.
“While the prospect of cooperation with a close neighbor may seem appealing at first glance, it is imperative to go into this dialogue knowing that you will be meeting with the security forces of the same regime that favors to imprison, torture or kill its own people, harbor terrorists that threaten our allies, and has provided safe haven to those who break our laws,” they wrote.
“Due to these actions against our country, your predecessor re-designated Cuba as a state sponsor of terror and added the Ministry of the Interior to the Restricted List of Entities and Subentities.”
The letter than added that the administration should focus its priorities on the issues central to the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act and the 1996 Libertad Act with the following list:
• Holding free and fair elections for Cuba’s governing institutions.
• Releasing all prisoners detained for “political crimes.”
• Withholding Cuban property until assets expropriated by the Cuban regime are returned to their rightful American and Cuban owners.
• Extraditing American citizens who have fled to Cuba to escape punishment for crimes committed on U.S. soil, including those responsible for murdering police officers and defrauding Medicare.
• Ceasing the weaponization of mass migration towards our shores; Stopping the sponsorship of foreign terrorist organizations operating in Colombia, Venezuela and elsewhere in Latin America.
Rubio and Scott closed their letter with reminders about Cuban opposition leaders who have faced harsh repressive retaliatory acts after their participation in the island July 11, 2022 protests, which marked the largest uprising since Fidel Castro seized power in 1959.
The senators specifically referenced the case of Jose Daniel Ferrer García, an internationally recognized human rights defender and leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) who has been jailed as a political prisoner since the protests for simply speaking out against the dictatorship. He has been abused and tortured in front of family members, according to reports by independent Cuban civil society organizations.
UNPACU member Angel Jesus Veliz was also sentenced to seven years in prison, and Dixán Gaínza Moré was sentenced to six years, according to reports. Other civil society members referenced in the letter include journalist Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca and Jorge Serrano Alfonso, who has also been beaten and trying to survive amid poor health conditions.
Rubio and Scott also reminded the Biden administration that democracy activists were not the only ones to face the wrath of the regime’s extrajudicial punishments.
The regime has also taken a strike against the clergy by sentencing Pastor Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo to seven years in prison, and Yoruba priests Loreto Hernández García and Donaida Pérez Paseiro to six years.
“Unfortunately, there are too many political prisoner cases to list,” the senators said.
“Should you not directly raise these instances would be a tacit endorsement of the regime’s brutal treatment and human rights violations of ordinary Cubans. As such, we urge you to utilize the forthcoming dialogue with the Cuban regime to focus on advancing the desperately needed political and economic freedoms for the Cuban people.”
Related Story: Biden Sending U.S. Officials to Cuba for Negotiations, Raising Questions About State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation