Two US Republican senators of Cuban descent have called on President-elect Donald Trump to re-evaluate President Barack Obama’s recently improved ties with Cuba.
The families of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio had been supporters of former Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, who was deposed in the 1959 Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro. Castro died on Friday at the age of 90.
Following the death of Castro, the senators, who have often railed against the revolutionary Cuban government, on Sunday spoke against President Obama’s restoration of diplomatic ties with the Latin American country.
“What the Obama administration has done has strengthened Raul Castro,” Cruz told ABC News. “Raul is the dictator now. You know, I asked my dad at dinner last night, well, what do you think happens now that Fidel is dead? And he shrugged and said Raul’s been in charge for years, that this is — the system has gotten stronger.”
Two years after the Cuban Revolution, the United States broke off diplomatic relations with the country in 1961 and placed an official embargo against it in 1962.
Earlier this year, Obama visited Cuba and told Cubans in an unprecedented live television address that he came to Cuba to open a new chapter in the relations between Washington and Havana. He called for a new direction of peace and friendship between the United States and Cuba.
Obama on Saturday expressed his condolences over the death of Castro, but Trump denounced the legendary Cuban leader, saying he left a legacy of “unimaginable suffering.”
Senator Rubio on Sunday told CNN that he believes Trump will demand more of Cuba to bring concessions on human rights issues.
“He has made very clear that he felt that the moves President Obama has made toward Cuba were wrong and that he would examine them and change the ones that needed to be changed,” Rubio said. “And I think that’s very promising.”
“I know they’ve had good people advising them on this issue, as well,” Rubio said of Trump. “So I certainly have confidence that he’s going to do the right thing when it comes to Cuba.”
The Obama administration and the government of Raúl Castro held 18 months of secret talks that led to a joint announcement on December 17, 2014, that the two long-time adversaries – the US and Cuba – would restore diplomatic relations and release prisoners on both sides.
The United States and Cuba restored diplomatic relations in July 2015. Despite this, Washington continues to maintain its commercial, economic, and financial embargo, which makes it illegal for US corporations to do business with Cuba.
Obama has been embroiled in a row with the Republicans in control of the Congress to lift the full embargo on Havana, but has failed so far.
Some portions of the embargo have been relaxed but not enough to appeal to Havana. Regular commercial flights have also resumed and cruise ships can now sail from Miami to Havana.