Marco Rubio Still Upset Over Cuba as Trade and Travel Restrictions Loosen
On Thursday, the Treasury and Commerce Department announced that trade and travel restrictions to Cuba will loosen up starting Friday. This means, among other things, that traveling to the island nation will be much less restricted, such as no longer having to apply for a travel license if one falls into a specific category, such as those involving journalism, professional research, educational activities, religious activities, public performances, clinics, workshops, humanitarian projects, and support for the Cuban people. Tourism is still restricted.
The loosening also means that people can travel to Cuba and bring back cigars, although there is a $400 limit on that.
The loosening of restrictions is the first step in President Obama's announcement last month that the United States and Cuba would be working to improve diplomatic relations.
But Marco Rubio is still very much against the whole idea and is demanding answers from Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew.
Following the announcement on Thursday, Rubio sent out a statement calling the restrictions lift "a windfall for the Castro regime" that will be used as a tool to keep repressing the people of Cuba.
Rubio also says the ease on restrictions will go against U.S. interests in Latin America "and beyond." The senator from Florida then asks Obama what gives him the authority to help the Castro brothers.
"Given existing U.S. laws about our Cuba policy, this slew of regulations leave at least one major question President Obama and his administration have failed to answer so far: what legal authority does he have to enrich the Castro regime in these ways?" Rubio's statement reads.
Rubio's statement goes on to say that he requested answers from Lew on how exactly the policy will be implemented "without violating the letter and spirit of several U.S. laws, and without increasing the moral and financial risk to the American taxpayer and financial system of doing business through Cuba's government-controlled financial system."
Rubio calls the policy a "one-sided deal" that will serve only to help Castro and his regime at the expense of the Cuban people and any U.S. interests abroad.
Even as tensions ease and the restrictions help serve the Cuban people in some ways, Rubio remains entrenched in a sort of Cold War stance with the president's policy. He's called Obama the worst negotiator since President Carter and accused the president of coddling tyrants.
But few seem to be seeing things his way.
Last month, Sen. Rand Paul fired off a series of tweets and wrote on his Facebook page criticizing Rubio's hardline stance against the easing of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S.
"Senator Marco Rubio believes the embargo against Cuba has been ineffective, yet he wants to continue perpetuating failed policies," Paul wrote on his Facebook. "After 50 years of conflict, why not try a new approach? The United States trades and engages with other communist nations, such as China and Vietnam. Why not Cuba? I am a proponent of peace through commerce, and I believe engaging Cuba can lead to positive change."
Moreover, while older generations of Cubans living in South Florida are vehemently against the policy shift, as Rubio is, polls show the younger generations of Cubans support the administration's efforts to restore relations with Cuba. Seventy-six percent of people younger than 30 surveyed in a Florida International University poll -- which you can read below -- who identified themselves as Cuban Americans say they back the policy change.
"We firmly believe that allowing increased travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba will allow the United States to better advance our interests and improve the lives of ordinary Cubans," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement. "The policy of the past has not worked for over 50 years, and we believe that the best way to support our interests and our values is through openness rather than isolation."
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