Opposing Rapprochement With Cubaby Representative Gus M. Bilirakis
Posted on 2015-01-12
BILIRAKIS. Thank you for holding this very important Special
[[Page H216]] Way back in the Florida Legislature, when I was a member of the Cuban Caucus, so proud to be a member of the Cuban Caucus, I started speaking out against the Castro brothers' brand of oppression.
Over the past 5 years, I joined with all of you to decry Alan Gross' arrest. I am thankful for his recent release. Alan Gross' freedom was long overdue, we all agree. I am glad he is safely on U.S. soil, but a large injustice remains: the plights of Cuban citizens, who have suffered for over five decades under the Castro regime in search of basic human rights and political freedoms that we as Americans, frankly, take for granted.
Then, almost out of nowhere, the Obama administration decides to normalize relations with Cuba. This will allow American dollars to the rescue of the Castro brothers at a critical time.
Their normal economic benefactors--Russia and Venezuela--cannot afford to help. Now, more than ever, economic sanctions can be used as an effective tool to force the Castro regime to afford basic human rights and political freedoms to all of Cuba's citizens.
Scholars have noted that normalizing our economic policy with oppressive countries, like China or Vietnam, have produced no significant improvements in human rights treatment.
Given the precedent, there is no reason to believe the situation with Cuba will yield significant different results. In fact, we already know that the suffering for Cuba's citizens will continue, unfortunately. Raul Castro proclaimed that there would be no renunciation of any of their principles. Cuban restrictions on free speech, assembly, and press will remain. They proved it just this last week.
Travel and tourism will remain strictly controlled by the Castro regime. Tourism dollars that Americans will spend will go directly to the oppressors.
We cannot ignore the sense of betrayal that Cuban defectors feel in response to the President's plan. We should be demanding genuine freedom: release of all political prisoners, universal human rights, Democratic principles, and a free market for the Cuban people.
In order to ensure the citizens of Cuba stand a chance to benefit from this ill-advised agreement, Cuba's despots must relinquish control and eradicate their tools of tyranny. Actual human rights reforms must occur before any commercial or political normalization takes place.
I will continue to monitor the actions on the island in search of positive movement.