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Marco Rubio urges John Kerry to meet with democracy leaders during Cuba visit

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is urging Secretary of State John Kerry to demand freedom and respect for the Cuban people during an upcoming visit to Cuba.

Kerry is traveling to Havana on Friday to raise the American flag over the newly reopened U.S. Embassy in Cuba. He will be the first secretary of state to visit the Communist island state since 1945.

Rubio, a Republican 2016 presidential candidate, chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues.

In a letter to Kerry sent Tuesday, the Florida senator also reiterated his promise to block the confirmation of any ambassador to Cuba until there are visible political reforms and progress on human rights. Rubio also calls Cuban leaders to return “harbored terrorists and fugitives” to face justice in the U.S., and the “resolution of outstanding American property claims and judgments” against the Cuban government.

“Despite all the setbacks President Obama’s [policies] have inflicted on the cause of a free and democratic Cuba,” Rubio wrote. “I urge you to, at least, use the opportunity of your upcoming August 14th trip to Havana to demand the freedom and rights of the Cuban people.”

For Kerry’s visit, Rubio suggested a list of Cuban freedom fighters to invite to the ceremony at the new American embassy: Antonio Rodiles, head of Estado de SATS; Berta Soler, head of the Ladies in White; Jorge Garcia Perez Antunez, former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience and human rights activist; Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, a U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient; Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience and labor leader; and Guillermo Farinas, recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

“They, among many others, and not the Castro family, are the legitimate representatives of the Cuban people,” Rubio said.

The letter further criticized the Obama Administration, with Rubio declaring the president has “given the Castro regime enough,” and stands to give away more through loosened business and travel regulations.

“At the very least,” Rubio concluded, “don’t send another message that, under this president, America cares more about endearing itself to the oppressors instead of standing up for the oppressed.”

A PDF of Rubio’s letter is available online.

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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