Menendez: Obama just gave an “economic lifeline” for a dictatorial regime

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey was getting a lot of press on Wednesday, following President Obama’s announcement that the United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba.

As outgoing Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair and one of two Cuban Americans in the Senate, Menendez was in a pretty good position to make his voice heard, and he didn’t hold back on Wednesday.

In a scathing statement, the Democratic senator said the policy “is misguided and fails to understand the nature of the regime in Cuba that has exerted its authoritarian control over the Cuban people for 55 years.”

Menendez goes on to state that the collapse of the Venezuelan economy means Cuba has lost its main economic benefactor. The new policy, he fears, will constitute an “economic lifeline” for the dictatorial regime.

According to Menendez: “It is a fallacy that Cuba will reform just because the American President believes that if he extends his hand in peace that the Castro brothers suddenly will unclench their fists. A majority of democratic activists on the island, including many that I have met with, have been explicit that they want the U.S. to become open to Cuba only when there is reciprocal movement by the Castro government.  They understand that the Castros will not accede to change in any other way.”

And while he described the release of contractor Alan Gross as “a moment of profound relief” for Gross and his family, he was equally critical of the Obama administration’s actions.

“Let’s be clear, this was not a ‘humanitarian’ act by the Castro regime,” Menendez stated. “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.”

____________________________________

This post is part of our South Jersey Politics Blog

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.