N.J Senator Rips Obama for Cuba Actions
New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez is furious at President Obama for a historical deal with Cuba that paves the way for the normalization of the relationships between the two countries.
Here’s the backstory: U.S. contractor Alan Gross has been held by the Cuban government since 2009. Today, the administration of Raul Castro agreed to free Gross — and another man, held by the Cuban government for 20 years — in exchange for three Cubans convicted of espionage in 2001.
The deal, which should be announced this afternoon, paves the way for a huge change in U.S.-Cuba relations. Obama is expected to announce a loosening of travel restrictions, and start discussions on re-opening the U.S. embassy there. It was closed in 1961.
Menendez, who recently helped a woman banned from entering the U.S. for visa fraud get that ban overturned after she donated to Democrats, released a long statement blasting the prisoner swap. Let’s just post the whole thing here:
This is a moment of profound relief for Alan Gross and his family. Mr. Gross’ physical and mental health has declined severely as a result of his five-year imprisonment under difficult conditions. He should have been released immediately and unconditionally five years ago. He committed no crime and was simply working to provide internet access to Cuba’s small Jewish community. His imprisonment was cruel and arbitrary, but consistent with the behavior of the Cuban regime.
Let’s be clear, this was not a “humanitarian” act by the Castro regime. It was a swap of convicted spies for an innocent American.
President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government. There is no equivalence between an international aid worker and convicted spies who were found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage against our nation. One spy was also convicted of conspiracy to murder for his role in the 1996 tragedy in which the Cuban military shot down two U.S. civilian planes, killing several American citizens. My heart goes out to the American families that lost love ones on that fateful day.
“Trading Mr. Gross for three convicted criminals sets an extremely dangerous precedent. It invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips. I fear that today’s actions will put at risk the thousands of Americans that work overseas to support civil society, advocate for access to information, provide humanitarian services, and promote democratic reforms.
“This asymmetrical trade will invite further belligerence toward Cuba’s opposition movement and the hardening of the government’s dictatorial hold on its people. Let us all remind ourselves that an untold number of ordinary people yearning for democracy remain imprisoned by the exact same tormentors that have punished Alan Gross and they, along with all Cubans, deserve a free and liberated Cuba.”
Gross was arrested while working for a program that was attempting to bring cell phones to Cuba’s small Jewish population. The Wall Street Journal has published the administration fact sheet on what is changing in relation to Cuba.
Menendez is of Cuban descent; his parents left Cuba several years before the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power: He was born in New York and raised in New Jersey.