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realclearworld

Sen. Marco Rubio challenges Obama administration official’s decision to hold press conference in Cuba

From the offices of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL):

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-wfnLOL47XBk/T-NbROQL8II/AAAAAAAAJRk/GE-Fx_-GhkY/s1600/473px-Marco_Rubio%252C_Official_Portrait%252C_112th_Congress.jpg

RUBIO CHALLENGES ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL’S RECENT ACTIONS IN CUBA

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today expressed concern about the Obama Administration’s recent, unprecedented decision to allow Alex Lee, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, to hold a press conference in Havana, Cuba with a message that undermined the goals of U.S. foreign policy.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Rubio seeks clarification on the decision to authorize an unconfirmed, mid-level official to conduct the press conference on January 10th, while questioning Mr. Lee’s distasteful praises of a notoriously corrupt regime that currently holds an American civilian hostage, offers its people no political freedoms and threatens international safety with its ties to foreign terrorist organizations.

“As you know, the Cuban regime has maintained its enduring and close ties to U.S.- designated foreign terrorist organizations, such as the FARC, continues to support regimes allied to Iran and their proxies, and has yet to take any meaningful actions to stop harboring American fugitives responsible for the death of U.S. law enforcement officers. The regime holds a dubious record as the worst human rights violator in the Western Hemisphere,” Rubio said. “In fact, while Mr. Lee was praising the ‘tone’ and ‘constructiveness’ of his discussions with the Cuban regime, human rights activists were being brutally beaten and arrested by the authorities.

“It was particularly distasteful to read Mr. Lee’s praises of the tone of his discussions with Cuban officials while Mr. Alan Gross, an elderly American humanitarian worker, remains unjustly incarcerated by Mr. Lee’s interlocutors,” Rubio added. “As you know, Cuban authorities have steadfastly refused several appeals for Mr. Gross’ unconditional, humanitarian release, despite numerous requests and widespread concern in the United States for his condition.”

A PDF of the letter is available here, and the full text of the letter is below:

February 5, 2014

The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Kerry,

I am greatly disappointed and concerned about the unprecedented decision to allow Mr. Alex Lee, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere to hold a press conference while visiting Havana in the context of the Administration’s migration talks with the Cuban regime. I am particularly troubled that his press conference and remarks in Havana, as reported by media outlets, diverged from and were incoherent with the goals of U.S. policy.

As you know, the Cuban regime has maintained its enduring and close ties to U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations, such as the FARC, continues to support regimes allied to Iran and their proxies, and has yet to take any meaningful actions to stop harboring American fugitives responsible for the death of U.S. law enforcement officers. The regime holds a dubious record as the worst human rights violator in the Western Hemisphere. In fact, while Mr. Lee was praising the “tone” and “constructiveness” of his discussions with the Cuban regime, human rights activists were being brutally beaten and arrested by the authorities. Among those arrested was renowned blind lawyer and dissident leader Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leyva.

It was particularly distasteful to read Mr. Lee’s praises of the tone of his discussions with Cuban officials while Mr. Alan Gross, an elderly American humanitarian worker, remains unjustly incarcerated by Mr. Lee’s interlocutors. As you know, Cuban authorities have steadfastly refused several appeals for Mr. Gross’ unconditional, humanitarian release, despite numerous requests and widespread concern in the United States for his condition. Furthermore, I am concerned that, while you have previously declared the Cuban regime’s demand to exchange Mr. Gross’ freedom for the release of four Cuban spies imprisoned in the U.S. a non-starter, Mr. Lee was reported as merely “taking note” of the regime’s reiteration of this demand, rather than reaffirming your previous clear stance on this sensitive matter.

Given these facts, I question the wisdom of authorizing an unconfirmed, mid-level official to conduct an unprecedented press conference in Havana, which gave a much needed propaganda coup to a beleaguered totalitarian regime desperate for international credibility. Please clarify the reasons behind such a decision, as well as the role of officials in your department, including Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson, Mr. Alex Lee, and Chief of Mission Caulfield in that decision and the drafting of Mr. Lee’s comments.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,

Senator Marco Rubio

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