Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., excoriated President Obama’s plan to normalize relations with Cuba and threatened to hold up efforts to confirm an ambassador and fund an embassy.
“This president is the single worst negotiator we have had in the White House in my lifetime who has basically given the Cuban government everything it asked for and received no assurances of any advances of democracy and freedom in return,” ripped Rubio, who may run for president in 2016, at a press conference. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was also cool to the plan, and he deferred to Rubio, a Cuban-American, on the issue, according to an AP report .
Rubio also threw cold water on any effort to roll back the embargo, which would require an act of Congress.
“This Congress is not going to lift the embargo,” Rubio said flatly.
The president Wednesday announced sweeping changes in relations with Cuba, including expanding exports, relaxing travel restrictions and renewing diplomatic relations with ambassadors and embassies.
As part of the deal, Cuba released over 50 political prisoners, including Alan Gross, a 65-year old American who had been imprisoned in Cuba for helping the Jewish community access the Internet.
Rubio argued that it is naive to believe that “more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people.”
A member of the Foreign Relations Committee, he pledged to do everything he could to unravel as many of the reforms as possible, including blocking the ambassador and funding for setting up an embassy.
“I anticipate I’ll be the chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee on Foreign Relations and I anticipate we are going to have a very interesting couple of years discussing how you’re going to get an ambassador [confirmed] and how you’re going to get an embassy funded,” Rubio said.
Rubio also took Obama to task over a promise to review a designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.
He pointed to an incident in February when a North Korean ship going through the Panama Canal was caught with a stash of Cuban weapons. Under United Nations sanctions, no country is permitted to sell arms to North Korea.
“That sounds like sponsorship of terrorism to me,” Rubio said.
Rubio, who declined to talk about his 2016 plans, downplayed any political rationale for his criticism of Obama’s plan.
When asked about younger voters in Florida not being as impassioned about the Cuban issue, Rubio said he didn’t care.
“I’ve never analyzed this issue from an electoral perspective…this is how I passionately feel,” Rubio said. “Quite frankly it’s irrelevant for me… I don’t care if 99 percent of people in polls disagree with my position. This is my position and I feel passionately about it.”
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