Echoing sentiments from other Republicans, Governor Rick Scott and Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera issued statements condemning President Barack Obama for striking a deal with Cuba that lessens sanctions on the communist nation. In addition to creating more navigable travel regulations and eased banking restrictions, Obama’s deal also brokered the release of Alan Gross, an American contractor jailed in Cuba for the last five years, in exchange for the release of three of the Cuban Five.
The Cuban Five consists of a group of men who were part of the “Wasp Network” sent by former Cuban president Fidel Castro to South Florida as spies. The group was convicted in 2001 of conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents in the U.S. The other two in the group were already released after having completed their sentences. Members of the group are hailed as heroes in Cuba.
“Today’s release of Alan Gross from Cuban prison is long overdue, and I am relieved and pleased for him and his family. However, it is unconscionable for President Obama to hand over spies responsible for the murder of two U.S. citizens, especially since Mr. Gross should have never been incarcerated,” Scott said. “Time and time again, the Castro regime has chosen violence and suppression over freedom and democracy, and the Obama administration’s actions of appeasement to dictators diminish the United States’ role of being a beacon for democracy. As long as Cuba chooses dictatorship over democracy, I will continue to support the embargo and sanctions against them. President Obama is giving in to a tyrannical government that does not value human rights and completely disregards the people of Cuba who are fighting for democracy.”
Scott’s sentiment fell along party lines as other members of the GOP spoke out against the deal.
“As a Cuban-American, I am disappointed by today’s actions from the Obama administration which set a dangerous precedent for rogue nations who know they can take American hostages at will. I am relieved for Alan Gross and his family. However, Cuba has a brutal dictatorship and the Obama administration’s actions only legitimize their oppressive behavior and make it harder for the people of Cuba who are fighting for democracy,” said Cantera.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio also condemned Obama for the move. Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, did not speak out against Obama’s deal, but did convey the need for caution in dealing with the Cuban government. U.S. Representative Kathy Castor, also a Democrat, has been supportive of normalization in recent months.