Sen. Marco Rubio slammed calls Monday from socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to lift America’s decades-old embargo against Cuba, saying advocates of the policy change “don’t know what they’re talking about.”
“All they know is, they’re just spewing off a left-wing talking point, because if you notice, these are the same people that [say] over and over again, ‘It’s always America’s fault,’” Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants and a Republican from Florida, told Fox News’ “Special Report”.
“No matter what problem there is in the world, America’s to blame for it. America’s done something wrong. They don’t know what the heck they’re talking about,” he added.
After protesters calling for the overthrow of Cuba’s Communist regime took to the streets of Havana and other cities on July 11, Sanders tweeted that the embargo, which has been in place since 1962, had “only hurt, not helped, the Cuban people.”
Ocasio-Cortez remained silent until Thursday, when she issued a statement expressing “solidarity” with the Cuban people and condemning repression by the Havana government. She then turned her focus to the embargo, describing it as “absurdly cruel” and “the US contribution to Cuban suffering.”
“It is never acceptable for us to use cruelty as a point of leverage against every day [sic] people,” she said.
“There’s only two embargoes here,” Rubio said Monday. “The embargo against government-owned companies, and the embargo that the Cuban regime imposes on its own people.
“Right now, if an independent business operator, if a small farm owner, if a consultant or independent contractor in Cuba wants to do business with Americans, they can,” the senator explained. “There’s no [US government] restriction on that. It’s the Cuban regime that doesn’t allow it … because they want to control how much money people make every month. It’s the leverage they hold over their heads. The people who give these opinions don’t know what they’re talking about.”
The Associated Press reported late Monday that President Biden had ordered the State Department to look at increasing staff levels at the US Embassy in Havana in order to help boost engagement with ordinary Cubans following the protests.
Biden also reportedly ordered the creation of a working group to review US remittance policy to ensure that money that Cuban-Americans send home makes it directly into the hands of their families without the regime taking a cut.
Rubio and other lawmakers have been urging the White House to work with Congress to help make the internet more accessible on the island after the Cuban government blocked social media sites during the protests.
“Cuba today is basically in a state of martial law,” Rubio told host Bret Baier. “In many of the major cities across the country, troops are stationed, security forces are stationed, and the message is clear: They’re all continuing to repress people.”
He added: “These horrifying reports we’ve seen and have gotten — of people being tortured, of people being abducted from their homes and family members not knowing where they are — this is the model they have followed for a long time. The only difference between now and in the past is some of it is being documented and posted on social media for the world to see.”
“What is clear now,” the senator said, “is that the rupture between the people and the regime is complete, and that they’ve lost their legitimacy to govern, and that’s the point that needs to continue to be driven home.”