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Albio S.
Democrat NJ 8

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  • Opposing Rapprochement With Cuba

    by Representative Albio Sires

    Posted on 2015-01-12

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    SIRES. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for allowing me to speak tonight.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my disappointment and deep concerns regarding the administration's plan for loosening the sanctions and initiating diplomatic discussions with the Cuban dictatorship. It is naive and misguided to think that this is going to give us the long-desired political and economic changes that the Cuban people deserve.

    In fact, just a few days after the announcement, Raul Castro made sure to dispel any misgivings and brazenly declared that the regime would not abandon its communist path, let alone loosen its stranglehold over the people of Cuba. I feel that the administration has abandoned all those Cuban people for all those years who fought for human rights and democracy in Cuba. I feel that those people who are still lingering in the Cuban jails are so disappointed in this administration's efforts.

    You know, the Alan Gross release should have been something joyous. And we all wanted Alan Gross released because he was incarcerated for no reason other than he was foreign. But to release three Cuban spies or a network of spies that exists in this country currently is just not acceptable. Alan Gross should have been released on his own. He did nothing. He just went to Cuba to establish some sort of communication for this community.

    The other thing that is troubling me, coming from New Jersey, is the fact that there was no discussion about any extradition of the criminals that are currently in Cuba. There are over 100 criminals in Cuba, including Joanne Chesimard, who killed a State trooper in New Jersey point blank 30 years ago. She escaped to Cuba. She has been enjoying the sun, she has been enjoying the beach. Meanwhile, Trooper Werner Foerster's family for over 30 years grew up without a father. And yet we can't seem to get this government to think that it is important that we bring these people to justice. As a matter of fact, the FBI has named Joanne Chesimard as number one in the list of terrorists that they want back.

    So to me it was very disappointing because the people of New Jersey, after all these years, are still trying to bring this woman to justice.

    People tell me, well, we negotiate and we trade with Vietnam, we trade with China. We trade with other countries. And I say this: that is not the island that I want in Cuba. We haven't helped Vietnam's people at all. There is still no freedom, and there are human rights abuses. You look at China, it is the same thing. You look at North Korea, it is the same thing. I don't want that for the island where I was born. And I surely don't want that kind of government 90 miles away from this country. You know, the history of Cuba, all in the past 50 years of this dictatorship, has been one to try to hurt this country as much as it can, and I certainly don't want that 90 miles from this country.

    The administration with this effort has taken away what we believe was a pressure point on a communist dictatorship 90 miles from this country. It has taken away how we can pressure this island. First of all, Russia can't help them any more. Russia used to help Cuba to the tune of $4 billion a year. Venezuela can't any more. Venezuela is falling apart. There are 30,000 Cubans in Venezuela trying to create the same type of country that we have in Cuba.

    And at this point, we take away this pressure and basically give millions of dollars to this dictatorship. People may not know it, but any time anybody sends any money to Cuba, the Cuban government keeps 30 percent of it. So if you raised it from $500 to $2,000, you tell me how many millions that is going to be. When you go to all of the beaches and to the restaurants, that is all government owned. In Cuba, if you want to set up a business, you have to negotiate with the government.

    If I want to set up a business and I need 100 workers, I don't go out and get 100 workers, I go out and speak to the government and the government tells me you have to pay $15 an hour. They in turn give those workers $2-3 an hour. That is not helping the Cuban people in their economics. That is not helping them move forward.

    So I think it is really naive to think that these kinds of changes are going to help. You know, I can only think back when I was young, and I came to this country at the age of 11. I remember when they took all of the books out of the school system and started the indoctrination process. I remember the military coming into my house and they took inventory. My mother and father were poor people, but they took inventory of everything that was in the house. And they threatened my parents that if anything was missing at the time we got our visa, it would be revoked.

    This is not the country that I want for Cuba. I want a country with democracy. I want a country where human rights are observed. And yet, for 50 years this dictatorship has been killing.

    People talk about Raul Castro as some sort of a changer. People forget that Raul Castro and Che Guevara were the ones who set up the firing squads in Cuba that killed thousands of people. Thousands of people were killed by the firing squads.

    So I rise today in total disappointment, and I hope that this administration sees that this is not the way forward, that this is a hardened dictatorship, and that the only way we can deal with this dictatorship is through pressure. Through pressure is the only way to deal with these people, especially at this time. There is nobody that is going to come out and bail out Cuba.

    {time} 2045 Just last year, they were funneling arms to North Korea right in our backyard. Is this the kind of government we want 90 miles from our shores? I thank my good friends for having this hour, allowing me to express my sentiments, and I thank all my colleagues who are here speaking with the same approach.

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