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GOP Fights Back on Obama’s Last Minute Moves to Solidify Relations with Cuba

By: Max Radwin - Oct 21, 2016, 11:43 am
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Obama meets with Raúl Castro (White House)

As Barack Obama’s time in office comes to an end, his administration has set its sights on solidifying new policies that will increasingly open relations between Cuba and the United States for the first time in 55 years.

On Oct. 14, Obama announced new regulations between the two nations that “promotes transparency” and encourages “positive engagement” while also lifting restrictions on goods like rum and cigars, among other things.

Knowing that the Obama administration is making these moves to ensure policies that improve relations with Cuba will remain more or less permanent, the GOP and other critics have been fighting back in hopes of finding a new approach to starting anew with the island.

“The American people rightly have many questions regarding your continued circumvention of the congressionally-enacted embargo on Cuba,” the letter said.

United States Senator of Oklahoma James Lankford and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart sent a letter to the president this week stating their profound concern regarding the recent Presidential Policy Directive with the communist Castro regime in Cuba.

Earlier this year, Lankford challenged the President to reevaluate his decision to open diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba because of their poor human rights records. In 2015, Lankford also criticized the Obama administration for making a major policy shift without the input of the American people.

Political arrests in Cuba have reportedly intensified, Internet connectivity has dropped and religious freedom violations have increased tenfold since the United States began working with Cuba to normalize relations.

The on-island Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, documented 8,616 political arrests in 2015, and 8,505 political arrests through September of this year, the letter said.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, 2,000 churches were declared illegal and 100 were designated for demolition last year.

Lankford expressed concern that the island’s government has no intention of changing its ways, pointing out that it was caught smuggling 240 tons of military weapons to North Korea in 2013, which a U.N. panel of experts determined was the largest violation of sanctions against that country to date.

The letter mainly focused on the arguement that Obama’s directive is an overreach of Executive authority regarding congressionally-enacted sanctions with Cuba, and that it contradicts America’s commitment to human rights.

“You have made it clear that you oppose current U.S. law in regard to sanctions against the Castro regime,” the congressmen wrote. “However, absent further action by Congress, it is imperative that your administration act in a way that is consistent with the laws passed by the American people’s representatives in Congress and signed into law by a previous president.

“We encourage you and your administration, in the waning days of your presidency, to provide at least as much transparency and engagement with the U.S. Congress as you apparently have cultivated with the Castro dictatorship.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan also said he wants to reverse Obama’s directive.

“The Castros continue to jail pro-democracy activists at a rate of hundreds per month, yet it is full steam ahead for the Obama administration’s efforts to appease this oppressive regime,” Ryan said in a statement released on his website.

“President Obama’s latest move will only help finance the Castros’ grip on power and jeopardize the intellectual property rights of American businesses,” he said. “As the past two years of normalizing relations have only emboldened the regime at the expense of the Cuban people, I fully intend to maintain our embargo on Cuba.”

Obama and his administration have thus not budged on their decisions.

“We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result,” a White House statement said. “It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state.”

Max Radwin Max Radwin

Max is an editor with PanAm Post. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 2015 with a Major in English Literature and a minor in Spanish Language. He has written for Newsday, Al Jazeera and The Miami Herald, among others.