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  • Opposing Rapprochement With Cuba

    by Representative Ron DeSantis

    Posted on 2015-01-12

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    Congressional Record, Volume 161 Issue 5 (Monday, January 12, 2015)

    [Congressional Record Volume 161, Number 5 (Monday, January 12, 2015)]
    [House]
    [Pages H214-H221]
    From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
    
    
    
    
                        OPPOSING RAPPROCHEMENT WITH CUBA
    
      The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Carter of Georgia). Under the Speaker's 
    announced policy of January 6, 2015, the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. 
    Ros-Lehtinen) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the 
    majority leader.
      Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I am so humbled and pleased to see my 
    colleagues who have turned out tonight at this late hour in a 
    bipartisan manner to say that we reject the President's ill-advised 
    treatment of the policy of rapprochement with the Cuban regime, and no 
    one is better able and better equipped to talk about freedom and 
    democracy and our fight for justice than Mr. Chabot.
      I yield to the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Chabot), a senior member of 
    the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of the House Small 
    Business Committee.
      Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to join with my 
    colleague and friend, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, in opposition to the 
    December 17 announcement by President Obama to change U.S. policy 
    toward Cuba. We will also be joined by some of our other colleagues, 
    and I want to particularly thank Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen for her 
    leadership on all issues regarding Cuba. She has been a leader on this 
    issue for a long, long time and will continue to be, I am sure.
      This policy change was a unilateral decision made without consulting 
    Congress and with complete disregard of long-term national security 
    consequences. Similarly, the so-called prisoner exchange was terribly 
    flawed.
      In 2013, Secretary Kerry stated that swapping convicted Cuban spies 
    for Alan Gross was off the table, testifying before Congress that since 
    Mr. Gross was wrongly imprisoned, there was no equivalency to pursue a 
    spy for spy tradeoff. Let us be clear: the freedom of Alan Gross is 
    welcome news, but this exchange was totally one-sided. It was 
    tragically flawed. It was not in the best interest of the people of the 
    United States, and it was not in the best interest of the people of 
    Cuba.
      As my colleague, Representative Ros-Lehtinen, has rightly highlighted 
    these past few weeks since the decision and the prisoner exchange 
    occurred, Cuban spies have been responsible for the deaths of American 
    lives. It is absolutely true that they have been. And they have been 
    released. Those are the people who were responsible for American 
    deaths. Cuban patriots who have risked their lives every day to fight 
    for basic rights and freedoms feel betrayed.
      The exchange was flawed. The policy itself is flawed, and the 
    announcement
    
    [[Page H215]]
    
    has also let down one of the United States' strongest ally in the 
    world, Israel. Year after year, Israel has stood at the United States' 
    side--one of the very few--supporting the United States at the United 
    Nations in 98 percent of all votes, including votes that the world's 
    worst actors pushed through to condemn the U.S. embargo on Cuba.
      Unfortunately, those who have long nourished and fostered cozy 
    relationships with Cuba, most notably Russia and Venezuela and various 
    terrorist organizations around the world, are welcoming the policy 
    changes with open arms.
      We need to be honest about the implications of President Obama's new 
    policy. His unilateral decision to change Cuba policy poses a threat to 
    U.S. national security. If the trade embargo is lifted, money will flow 
    into the hands of the Castro brothers, allowing them to financially 
    support surreptitious espionage activities with terrorist groups like 
    Hezbollah and nations like North Korea.
      Since the President made his public announcement, nearly 100 Cubans 
    have already been detained. The United States should always stand for 
    democracy and freedom around the world. We should demand that the 
    Castro regime release all political prisoners and hold free and fair 
    elections before establishing diplomatic relations.
      I once again thank the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen) 
    for her leadership in this area for many, many years, and it is an 
    honor to speak this evening with her.
      Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. I thank the gentleman from Ohio very much, and 
    thank you for looking out for our U.S. national security, and thank you 
    for trying to uphold the values of freedom throughout the world.
      Mr. Chabot brought up the fact that Mr. Kerry, speaking before our 
    committee, said that we would not release spies for Alan Gross' life. 
    And that came because of a question posed by our next speaker, and I am 
    pleased to yield to the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Sires), the 
    ranking member of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.
      Mr. 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.
      Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, as you heard from Mr. Sires, he was 
    born and reared in Cuba, but you don't have to be a Cuban American to 
    understand the principles that are at stake here. One person who knows 
    that is a wonderful congressman from our great State of Florida. So I 
    am proud to yield to the gentleman from Florida, Gus Bilirakis.
      Mr. BILIRAKIS. Thank you for holding this very important Special 
    Order.
    
    [[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.
      Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Bilirakis, I thank you for your clear and 
    consistent message that restrictions should not be lifted against the 
    Castro regime until those conditions are met.
      Our next speaker, Mr. Speaker, is the gentleman from Alabama, 
    Congressman Bradley Byrne, who so understands that good trade is based 
    on free and fair countries that cherish the principles upon which our 
    great country was founded--freedom, democracy, respect for the rule of 
    law--all of which are missing in today's Cuba. His great city of 
    Mobile, Alabama, will greatly benefit once we have free trade and fair 
    trade with a Democratic Cuba. I yield to the gentleman from Mobile, 
    Alabama.
      Mr. BYRNE. I thank the gentlewoman, both for your time and for your 
    leadership on this very important issue.
      As she said, I represent Mobile, Alabama. If you go and look at a 
    map, it is a straight shot north from Havana to Mobile. For over three 
    centuries, Mobile has been a major port for the export of goods and 
    import of goods back and forth between Cuba and the United States. It 
    is in the economic best interest of the people in my district for us to 
    get to the point where we have normalized relations and trade with 
    Cuba.
      I should be ardently in favor of this deal that the President is 
    pursuing, but I am not. This is not the time, these are not the 
    circumstances, and--to put it simply--this is not the way to do this.
      Let me address the way for a moment. It has been alluded to 
    previously that we have done deals with China and with Vietnam. In both 
    cases, the Presidents involved worked with Congress. That is critically 
    important to whatever success they have had in both of those deals.
      In this circumstance, the President has refused to work with 
    Congress. You can't reach the sort of agreement that he is looking for 
    without Congress. You can't have an embassy unless we are willing to 
    pay for it. You can't have an ambassador unless the Senate approves the 
    ambassador.
      He is pursuing what, in essence, is an errand that cannot result in 
    success that he is looking for, but he is pursuing it anyway without us 
    because this is just another example of these efforts to make these 
    unilateral, executive-type decisions, leaving Congress to decide to try 
    to keep itself relevant as he becomes a lameduck President. That is no 
    way to do this.
      Let me address the circumstances. I can't say it any better than the 
    prior speakers have said it. This is a brutally oppressive regime that 
    cannot change, and until they change, until they put in motion the 
    things that we are talking about for change, I don't see how a country 
    like the United States can seriously engage in negotiations with them.
      Most importantly, for me, from my perspective, I serve on the House 
    Armed Services Committee--I don't think I have to tell everybody here 
    the history of this country--this country with this regime in charge 
    allowed the then-Soviet Union to put nuclear missiles aimed at the 
    United States on their soil. They have never apologized for that; they 
    have never renounced that.
      As we heard earlier, just a year ago, they were caught redhanded in 
    an arms deal with the North Koreans, who are presently enemies of the 
    United States. What sort of assurance do we have as part of this deal 
    that Cuba is not going to be a staging ground for military activity, 
    terrorist activity, against the people and the security of the United 
    States of America? Nothing, nothing; yet we engaged in this deal, a 
    very bad deal from my perspective--and I don't want to take anything 
    away from the American citizen who we were able to bring back home--but 
    look who we traded in return for that.
      It reminds me of the Bergdahl deal we had last year that was so very 
    controversial. This administration doesn't know how to make a good 
    deal. They know how to give everything away and get very little back.
      I want to normalize relationships with Cuba. I want us to open up 
    that trade again because it is going to benefit my district.
      I am willing to do anything I can to help make that happen, but this 
    country should never give in to people like the Castro brothers until 
    there is a change in that regime, until there is a change in the 
    Government of Cuba, until they renounce their activities that have been 
    against the security of the United States, until we know that we have a 
    good faith trading partner and a good faith partner, period, in this 
    hemisphere.
      I look forward to the day when I can stand at the Port of Mobile and 
    welcome goods coming in from Cuba and goods going out from Mobile to 
    Cuba as part of a deal that is made in the right way, under the right 
    circumstances, for the right reason. I hope and pray that that day 
    comes, but that day is not today.
      I thank the gentlewoman for her leadership. I look forward to 
    continuing to follow that leadership in the days to come.
      Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Thank you very much. I am so thankful to my good 
    friend from Mobile, Alabama, for his words, because he understands that 
    American principles are not for sale.
      I would like to point out, Mr. Speaker, that every country with whom 
    the Castro brothers do business is a country to whom they owe a lot of 
    money. They have not paid all of their bills to any businesses, and 
    they have not paid what they owe to any country, and it would be all 
    the same for Mobile, Alabama. Thank you for standing up for U.S. 
    values.
      Now, I am so pleased to yield to my good friend from South Carolina, 
    a gentleman who understands the threat to our hemisphere. Why? Because 
    he is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, the 
    gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Duncan), my good friend.
      Mr. DUNCAN of South Carolina. I thank the gentlewoman from Florida 
    for her leadership on this issue, not just today, but for her whole 
    tenure in Congress.
    
    [[Page H217]]
    
      As the new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the 
    Western Hemisphere, I was grateful to see the return of Alan Gross to 
    the United States last month after 5 years of unjust imprisonment in 
    Cuba. The announcement over this past weekend that the Cubans freed 53 
    prisoners was also welcome news.
      Nevertheless, I have major concerns with the way this administration, 
    the Obama administration, conducted negotiations and the way the 
    decision was made to radically alter longstanding U.S. policy towards 
    Cuba.
      The administration failed to consult Congress, failed to consult any 
    Cuban dissidents or civil society in its decision to embark on its new 
    course in Cuba. The administration says this decision will empower the 
    Cuban people; yet softening U.S. policy without concrete Cuban reforms 
    will only boost the Castro regime and government and facilitate the 
    survival of the communist regime.
      We need to focus not on what is best for the Cuban Government, the 
    Castro regime, we need to focus on what is best for the Cuban people.
      I ask you this: Will this deal mean more self-governance for the 
    Cuban people? Will it mean more economic freedom for those who strive 
    to innovate, those that are entrepreneurial within the Cuban society? 
    Will they be able to start more businesses and have economic freedom? 
    Will there be more religious freedom for the Cuban people? Will there 
    be more rights to free speech? Are the Cuban people seeing this debate 
    tonight on Cuban TV? Are the Cuban people able to access the Internet 
    and watch what we are doing via YouTube or any other media? These are 
    rhetorical questions, but I answer them with ``no,'' based on my 
    understanding.
      I recall it was only 1 week after the announcement of this U.S.-Cuba 
    deal that the Cuban Government cracked down on peaceful protestors in 
    Havana's Revolutionary Square. I point to that as evidence that it is 
    still a closed communistic society.
      In conclusion, the administration's decision is a reward to the 
    communist dictatorship at the expense of the Cuban people. This action 
    is especially disgraceful when we consider the administration's 
    disrespect toward our friend and ally in Canada by vowing to veto 
    legislation approving the construction of the Keystone pipeline.
      These are issues that require vigorous congressional oversight. I 
    look forward to working with the ranking member, Mr. Sires, that you 
    just heard from, as we hold hearings in the Subcommittee on the Western 
    Hemisphere in the coming weeks and month.
      Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Thank you so much, Mr. Duncan. We are so pleased 
    that we have this dynamic duo of the chairman and the ranking member of 
    Western Hemisphere. You are so right to point out, Mr. Duncan, that 
    there is no freedom of the press in Cuba. That is one of the many 
    freedoms that Cuban people are denied.
      Now, I yield to my colleague from Florida, Congressman Ron DeSantis, 
    who is a war veteran, but who understands that the war for freedom and 
    democracy takes on many fronts, a member of our House Foreign Affairs 
    Committee.
      Mr. DeSANTIS. Mr. Speaker, I would just like to recognize my 
    colleague from Florida because she is just not only on the House floor 
    fighting for freedom for the Cuban people, with whom she obviously has 
    ancestral relations, she fights for freedom for everybody. Whether it 
    is in Venezuela or Iran, she is there; you can set your clock to it.
      When I first heard about these concessions, I was really scratching 
    my head. I texted some of my colleagues, and I was like: ``We are not 
    really getting anything for this.''
      Sure enough, Raul Castro goes out, talks to the people, and says: 
    ``We are not changing. We are not changing anything.'' They are staying 
    exactly with the values that they have been with from the beginning, 
    which are antagonistic to freedom, antagonistic to everything we hold 
    dear in the United States.
    
                                  {time}  2100
    
      You know, when you look at countries like Cuba, a lot of times you 
    don't even need to get into the nitty-gritty. There are just certain 
    signs where you know the nature of the regime. For example, when you 
    look at communism in Eastern Europe, you don't have to look at the 
    daily life or any of that. You just look at the fact that there was a 
    Berlin Wall that kept people in like caged animals. If you look at the 
    differences between North and South Korea, all you have to do is look 
    at that satellite photo at night, where South Korea is lit up like a 
    Christmas tree and North Korea is a land of darkness and despair.
      For me, when I think of what is the nature of the Cuban regime, I 
    think all you need to know is that you have tens of thousands of people 
    living in Cuba. It is a nice island, it has great weather, and they are 
    suffocated so much that they are willing to swim across 90 miles of 
    shark-infested waters--the Florida Straits--knowing that they are 
    probably going to die. That is all you need to know.
      This is a Stalinist regime. And as my colleague from Alabama 
    mentioned, the Cuban missile crisis wasn't even just that there were 
    nuclear weapons in Cuba pointed at the United States. Fidel Castro was 
    telling Khrushchev to fire them into the United States. We actually 
    were fortunate that Nikita Khrushchev was actually the cooler head in 
    that. So if Castro had his way, there would have been nuclear weapons 
    sent here. And so this is the nature of the regime.
      So what are you doing with this policy? To me, I look at it very 
    simply. I think this fact is true. Every single dollar spent in Cuba 
    benefits the Castro regime. Every single dollar. Europe doesn't have 
    restrictions. Most of the other world doesn't have restrictions. Have 
    the Cuban people benefited from that? Has their standard of living gone 
    up? No. This all goes to benefit the government.
      To me, this is the worst possible time to throw the Castro regime a 
    lifeline. If you look at what is happening in Caracas, if you look at 
    what is happening in Moscow, these regimes are buckling because of the 
    decline in the price of oil.
      So this is a moment of profound weakness for the Castro regime. And 
    giving them these concessions is exactly what the Castro regime wants. 
    I am scratching my head trying to figure out: What do we get in return 
    for this?
      The Americans who had property seized when Castro took power, are any 
    of them getting their property back? No.
      What about the Cuban Americans who had to flee? They had their 
    businesses taken, property taken. Are any of them going to get any type 
    of recompense? Of course, not.
      What about freedom of speech, political rights, the ability to 
    participate in political life and criticize those in power? Is that 
    being extended to the Cuban people? Not on your life. Nothing.
      I will say, it is interesting--and my colleague from Florida 
    mentioned this--the dismal credit rating that Cuba has. They don't pay 
    back any loans. Are we then going to extend Export-Import Bank loans 
    that are backed by the taxpayer to do business in Cuba? The American 
    taxpayer is going to have to end up paying for that. That is not a good 
    source of business for our taxpayers.
      The tragedy of this is we have given away leverage that could have 
    come in handy. These Castro brothers are on their last legs. When they 
    finally leave the scene, we want to use the leverage we have to 
    leverage a democratic transition. Instead, we are essentially 
    normalizing status quo. So if the Stalinist dictatorship survives 
    beyond the Castros due to U.S. support, you are going to have 11 
    million Cubans who are consigned to another generation of tyranny.
      I will just say one more thing. When I read the media coverage--and I 
    think I can say this because I am not from south Florida--the coverage 
    is so negative about Cuban Americans who fled Castro. They say: Oh, 
    they're living in the past. This is anachronistic, all this stuff.
      For me, the people that I want to talk to to know the true nature of 
    the regime are the people who suffered under the regime, the people who 
    were forced to flee and who had family members killed, had family 
    members in prison. That, to me, is the number one source of information 
    that I would look to.
    
    [[Page H218]]
    
      And so the media frames it as if somehow the American policy is 
    anachronistic. I think it is the Castro regime, based on Stalinist 
    principles, that is anachronistic, and yet it continues to lumber on. 
    And the tragedy of this is that we are giving them a critical lifeline 
    so that they can continue having their country governed like a 
    political prison.
      So I appreciate you organizing this, my colleague in Florida. We are 
    giving speeches here tonight, but we need to act in this body, and we 
    need to show that this policy does not represent the will of the 
    American people and does not represent what is best for people in Cuba 
    that are struggling for freedom.
      Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Thank you so much, Mr. DeSantis. You are so right 
    when you categorized this unilateral bad deal as an economic lifeline 
    to the Castro regime.
      A person who understands that just as well as you do is our next 
    speaker, the gentleman from Iowa, a senior member of the House 
    Committee on Agriculture, Congressman Steve King. He can say: Hey, my 
    State is going to benefit a lot by this deal.
      The sad reality, as Mr. King and I know, is that Castro doesn't pay 
    his debt. As we had just said with the other speaker, he owes everybody 
    money. This deal will not strengthen U.S. national security. It will 
    not be good for America's farmers, and it will not be good for the 
    people of Cuba.
      Congressman King.
      Mr. KING of Iowa. I thank the gentlewoman from Florida for organizing 
    this Special Order, and I associate myself with her words and her 
    position and also that of the gentleman from Florida (Mr. DeSantis). I 
    didn't, Mr. Speaker, realize how much was in him about this issue. It 
    was instructive for me to listen to that stream forward.
      I have had the privilege of serving here in this Congress with a good 
    number of Members that do a great job of representing the interests of 
    the Cuban people, and I also had the privilege of going to Cuba on a 
    legal trip some years ago before I came to this Congress. But I would 
    take you back, Mr. Speaker, to a time in 1959 and trace some of this 
    history.
      The revolution against Batista in 1959 was back before we had as many 
    replays on television as we have today. And I recall watching the 
    revolution in Cuba, and as Castro took over, as the promise came that 
    they were going to bring democracy to Cuba--that was the promise. It 
    was going to be democracy; it was going to be free and fair elections, 
    a government of, by, and for the people of Cuba; and they were going to 
    choose their leadership.
      But I remember seeing on television the videos of the people who were 
    lined up against the wall and executed without a proper trial, executed 
    without true justice. I remember in particular--it is branded in my 
    memory--a man who insisted: If you are to shoot me here in front of 
    this wall, let me give the order for my own execution. And he stood 
    there in a Cuban shirt down to here--white pants, white shirt--and he 
    raised his hand and faced the firing squad and dropped his own hand. 
    That was the signal to the firing squad. They fired. He was shot to 
    death in front of that wall, along with many, many others.
    
      We don't know at this point how many political prisoners have been 
    executed, how many have died in custody. We have got a list of some; we 
    don't have a list of all. But we know this: it has never been, since 
    that time in 1959, a government of, by, and for the people of Cuba.
      And the hope that there will be the day that the Cuban people would 
    be free was manifested--or at least attempted to be manifested--at the 
    Bay of Pigs. I would have liked to have seen the air cover that would 
    have made that be successful. We didn't get that. But we look for the 
    day to come ever since that the Cuban people could be free. The Cuban 
    people could be free.
      Since that time, there has been the nationalization of the real 
    property, which we heard from Mr. DeSantis. At the time that Castro 
    took control of Cuba, 25 percent of the real estate in Cuba was owned 
    by Americans. They held deeds to that property. There was other land in 
    Cuba that was owned by people from other nationalities.
      Every other country was compensated for their real estate, except 
    Americans. No American that I know of has been compensated for their 
    real estate. They hold those deeds to this today, sometimes a second 
    generation.
      Before I came to this Congress, while I was there, there was also a 
    situation where the exchange rate for Cuban peso to dollar was 21 to 1 
    at that time. And so if anyone achieved an American dollar, they could 
    take it into a dollar store and they would get one peso's worth of 
    goods for it or they could deposit it into a Cuban bank and they would 
    get one peso for that. That is a 20-peso difference. And that is one of 
    the things that supported the Castro regime financially.
      Another thing that happened was sugar was 6 cents a pound. The 
    Russians paid them 52 cents a pound in oil for the sugar. That was a 
    subsidy of Cuba. When the Soviet Union--it was the Soviet Union rather 
    than just the Russians--collapsed, then the subsidy for Cuba also 
    collapsed and the Cuban economy was no longer propped up.
      You saw Russian tractors sitting out there, having been stripped for 
    parts, in the only country in the world I know that had gone from 
    mechanized agriculture to animal husbandry agriculture because their 
    machines no longer worked. And the taxicabs are driven by doctors, with 
    a five-cylinder Russian diesel under the hood of a 1954 Chevrolet.
      This country has been frozen in time. It has a collapsed and failed 
    economy. It has been propped up by the subsidy of, first, the Soviet 
    Union, and then later on, the Venezuelans, who are collapsing, 
    themselves, today.
      This is a country of people that are vigorous people. They are an 
    outgoing, hardworking, I will say, gregarious people. I thought I would 
    see people down there that had the thousand-yard hopeless stare. I am 
    sure that exists. But I also saw people that worked hard and they kept 
    their chin up and they kept a smile on their face.
      I thought, If these people could be unleashed, if they could be 
    unleashed by the heartbeat of freedom, if we could just get them that 
    opportunity to be who they are, they would become a very, very 
    successful island and trading partner and a nation unto themselves and, 
    one day, an ally of the United States.
      So my dream has been to help them with that opportunity, and my dream 
    has been to one day swim ashore at the Bay of Pigs and walk out and 
    wade onto a free Cuba, with a free Cuban.
      But, Mr. Speaker, the Cuban people have been burdened with more than 
    five decades of Marxist slavery that they have had to face. And this 
    policy of the President's that comes right on the cusp of what is 
    likely the biological solution in Cuba, which would be the end of the 
    Castro brothers that would come along naturally and the opportunity to 
    bring about a regime change in Cuba, the President of the United States 
    may well have handed Cuba another 50 years of living in Marxist slavery 
    when he had just the opportunity for them to be free.
      So our policy here in this Congress, I am hopeful, is the policy that 
    says: regime change in Cuba and a government of, by, and for the people 
    of Cuba. And I, one day, hope and pray to do what I have said with my 
    colleagues here and many others, and that is swim ashore at the Bay of 
    Pigs and wade out on the shore of a free Cuba.
      God bless them all.
      Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Thank you so much, Mr. King. That is our fervent 
    hope as well. And we work and we pray every day for that dream of a 
    free Cuba to come alive. We thank you for your voice here tonight. 
    Thank you, my good friend from Iowa.
      Mr. Speaker, many people talk about the last generation of Cuban 
    exiles and how this is really not the dream of young Cuban Americans 
    who were born here in the United States, reared here in the United 
    States. They come from Cuban families, but they really don't much care 
    about freedom and democracy and the land of their ancestors.
      This next speaker, Mr. Speaker, is a newly elected gentleman who 
    understands that that search for a free and democratic Cuba is a 
    yearning that lives very fervently in his heart, and that is the 
    Congressman from West Virginia, Congressman Alex Mooney, who was born 
    here, as American as apple pie, but comes from a proud lineage of Cuban 
    American heritage.
      Thank you, Mr. Mooney.
      Mr. MOONEY of West Virginia. I want to thank Congresswoman Ileana
    
    [[Page H219]]
    
    Ros-Lehtinen for arranging this important Special Order to show 
    solidarity with the Cuban people as they continue to live under an 
    oppressive regime.
      Mr. Speaker, President Obama has senselessly yielded ground, with no 
    stipulations for reform, to the Cuban regime, with the announcements of 
    a secret deal going around Congress to ``normalize'' relations. This 
    misguided grab for a legacy item has cost our country and the Cuban 
    people a valuable bargaining chip for their freedom.
      Of course, this is yet another foreign policy failure or, more 
    accurately, unilateral surrender from this administration. From the 
    bright red line in Syria, which was crossed with impunity, to sending a 
    secret message to President Putin that, ``After the election, I will be 
    more flexible,'' to now rewarding tyrants in Cuba who continue to deny 
    basic human rights to their oppressed citizens, President Obama has 
    chosen wrong policies.
      The despotic government the President would normalize relations with 
    has, for decades, sought to subjugate the Cuban people's appetite for 
    freedom. The many realized American Dreams of Cuban refugees, including 
    my mother, are a great testament to the greatness of the United States 
    and our constitutional rights. As the beacon of freedom in the world, 
    America must continue to use sensible policy to protect our values 
    around the world and in our own backyard.
    
                                  {time}  2115
    
      Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Thank you so much, Mr. Mooney. We are a better 
    Congress for you being a part of it. Thank you so much for being proud 
    of your American heritage and your Cuban American ancestry as well. So, 
    welcome to Congress, sir.
      Mr. Speaker, I am about to introduce another millennial, another one 
    of this younger generation of Cuban Americans who the press continues 
    to say don't represent the desires of this new generation.
      Well, Carlos Curbelo is one of our newest elected officials. He was 
    born here in the United States, doesn't know Cuba, and is less than 35 
    years old but understands that yearning for a free Cuba. We are so 
    pleased as punch to have him here as a Member of our Congress.
      I yield to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Curbelo).
      Mr. CURBELO of Florida. I thank the gentlelady for yielding, and I 
    thank her for her tireless advocacy and work on this very, very 
    important cause.
      Mr. Speaker, during the 56 years of the Cuban tragedy, also known as 
    the Cuban Revolution, there had always been two constants.
      First, the nature of the Castro regime, a dictatorship that brutally 
    represses its own people, and that aggressively opposes U.S. national 
    security interests throughout the globe. That has not changed.
      The second was that, to varying degrees, the occupant of the White 
    House had always been on the side of the Cuban people and in opposition 
    to their oppressors, who for decades have collaborated with America's 
    most dangerous allies. Today, this is, regrettably, no longer the case.
      By trading an American hostage, cruelly held by Cuba's dictators for 
    5 years, for three criminals convicted of spying against our 
    government, including one who was serving a lifetime sentence for 
    conspiring to murder American citizens, the President sent a message to 
    our enemies that the United States can be extorted.
      What was the Cuban government's reward for holding an American 
    hostage for 5 years? Three convicted spies and full diplomatic 
    relations, plus an economic bailout for a financially and morally 
    bankrupt regime.
      The men who rule Cuba today are the same men who had nuclear missiles 
    installed on the island and pointed them at the United States, as my 
    colleague from Alabama stated earlier. When they were cash-rich, they 
    ran a robust military and deployed troops throughout the world to fight 
    alongside our most dangerous enemies.
      They have trained and supported terrorist groups such as Colombia's 
    FARC. They ordered three American citizens and one resident blown out 
    of the sky in the tragic shootdown of February 24, 1996.
      A few months ago, they were caught shipping arms illegally to North 
    Korea, and they collaborated with the Venezuelan government in last 
    year's brutal crackdown, which resulted in the death of over 40 
    students.
      Human rights atrocities by the dictatorship against its people 
    continue. The Castro regime consistently resorts to violence because 
    they know it is the only way they can maintain control since the Cuban 
    people are desperate to be free.
      The President's decision to ease sanctions only serves to bolster the 
    dictatorship and its apparatus of repression. There is virtually no 
    private sector in Cuba. More than 85 percent of Cubans work for 
    government controlled-enterprises and earn less than $20 a month.
      Foreign investment doesn't benefit the average Cuban. Cubans that 
    work for corporations with foreign capital are only allowed to keep 8 
    percent of their salaries. Cuban workers are, in effect, slaves of the 
    dictatorship.
      Now, it is important to note, Mr. Speaker, President Obama's 
    administration approved sanctions in recent months against Venezuela 
    and North Korea. Why, then, is it rewarding an enemy of the United 
    States just 90 miles from our shores that actively collaborates with 
    both of these regimes?
      Why does the President insist on an incoherent foreign policy that 
    too often rewards our enemies and punishes our allies?
      As other American Presidents have shown us in the past, peace through 
    weakness and appeasement is not an effective strategy for dealing with 
    Cuba's military dictatorship.
      We also have to ask ourselves, what kind of neighborhood do we want 
    to live in?
      The Americas, the Western Hemisphere, is the American neighborhood of 
    the world. What kind of standards do we want for this part of the 
    world?
      Do we want to endorse the chronic abuse of human rights, the 
    imprisonment of people who disagree?
      That is the nature of the Cuban government, and we, the United States 
    of America and, by the way, the other nations of this hemisphere, have 
    agreed that we support a democratic form of government, and that we 
    want this part of the world to be free without exception. There is one 
    glaring exception, and it is Cuba.
      Our sanctions policy, some say, well, it hasn't worked. Of course the 
    sanctions have worked. The sanctions have denied billions and billions 
    and billions of dollars to a regime that would use those profits to 
    oppose our interests throughout the world.
      What did the regime do when it had resources?
      It had troops all over the world. It exported revolution. And if you 
    don't know what exporting revolution means, in the context of Cuba, it 
    means aggressively opposing American interests throughout the world.
      Today, we remember in a very special way, Mario Manuel de la Pena, 
    Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre, and Pablo Morales. These were the men 
    who were brutally assassinated by the Cuban regime on February 24 of 
    1996.
      One of the spies was convicted of conspiring to murder these young 
    men, three of whom were American citizens, and the other was a resident 
    of our country. These four men are dead, and the Cuban spies are free.
      But it isn't too late, Mr. Speaker. The President still has time to 
    get back on the right side of this issue and on the right side of 
    history by standing against Cuba's dictators, with the victims of their 
    brutality, and for a strong American foreign policy that advances our 
    national security interests.
      Again, I want to thank my distinguished colleague from south Florida 
    for her leadership. We have admired her for so many years for her work 
    on this issue.
      Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Thank you so much, Mr. Curbelo. You are a fresh 
    young voice, and I thank you and Mr. Mooney for being here tonight.
      Mr. Speaker I am so pleased to yield to a gentleman who understands 
    what freedom is all about. He was one of the speech writers for our 
    great President, Ronald Reagan. He is a senior member of the House 
    Foreign Affairs Committee. In fact, he is the chairman of the Europe 
    Subcommittee, and he is here tonight with one of his triplets, 
    Christian, who wants to be an author and an inventor.
      I look at Christian, this new generation, and I think, what kind of 
    life
    
    [[Page H220]]
    
    would he have under the communist tyranny of Cuba, as opposed to the 
    freedom and democracy that we enjoy here?
      So with that, I am pleased as punch to yield to my good friend from 
    California (Mr. Rohrabacher).
      Mr. ROHRABACHER. Thank you very much.
      America is about to send a message to the world exactly on whose side 
    are we on, and I am very proud to stand here with my colleagues, 
    standing on the side of liberty, of justice, of treating people 
    decently, of government that serves the people rather than a systematic 
    government that requires the people to serve them, the bureaucracy, the 
    tyrants that hold power.
      That is what this is all about. Let's get an understanding of who 
    this Castro gang is. Castro murdered the freedom fighters who overthrew 
    the dictatorial government of Batista back in the 1950s.
      Castro, himself, took people out who had fought against the 
    dictatorship of Batista and shot them in the head. These were people 
    that risked their lives to bring democracy to Cuba, and this man co-
    opted their revolution.
      He has allied himself, over the years, with gangsters and tyrants 
    throughout the world. He has had a safe haven for the drug dealers of 
    Latin America, who look to him as the moderator of any disputes between 
    these monstrous gangsters who murder each other and murder anyone who 
    gets in their way.
      He has allied with these drug dealers. But also, during the cold war 
    he was allied to the hilt to the communist movement throughout the 
    world. He wanted his country to become a nuclear base to attack and 
    drop nuclear bombs on the people of the United States.
      Let's not forget that. This is the man who wanted to kill Americans 
    by the millions. For us now, oh, well, that is history; let bygones be 
    bygones.
      Are you kidding me?
      This is the guy that we need to send a message to. When people have 
    that much hatred of the United States, undermine the freedom of the 
    people in of the world, we are not just going to sit aside and forgive 
    him of these things.
      Oh, by the way, he is not even asking for forgiveness. The Castro 
    regime is just saying, accept us as we are, a country that has had more 
    political prisoners than almost any other country of this hemisphere, 
    and we are just going to accept them as they are.
      Well, remember, when people were struggling during the cold war 
    against communism, Castro was on the wrong side. During the cold war, 
    he was the one who wanted to kill Americans by the millions by having 
    Soviet missiles in his country.
      Finally, what does this agreement that this administration--what will 
    be the effect of it?
      Oh, yeah, they say, we have been told, well, if you just have free 
    trade people are going to get better. There is going to be liberalism.
      I call this the ``hug a Nazi, make a liberal'' theory. The fact is 
    that Fidel Castro, just like the Chinese Communists, I might add, no 
    matter how much trade we have, they will manipulate it so that the 
    clique that is in power, the clique that has been able to monstrously 
    oppress their own people, take that wealth, manipulate that wealth that 
    is coming into the country to cement their own power.
      It is very clear what this man has and his clique have in mind, and 
    that is continuing their oppression of the Cuban people.
      Let's not be partners to that. Let us again, stand for liberty, stand 
    for justice.
      The Soviet Union has fallen. It is time for Castro and communism in 
    Cuba to fall as well.
      Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Thank you so much, Mr. Rohrabacher. And you so 
    rightly point out that hours after President Obama announced, in a 
    shocking way, that we would resume diplomatic relations with Cuba and 
    the Castro regime does not have to change, Raul Castro put on his 
    military uniform and spoke to the oppressed island nation and said, 
    hey, don't worry. We are not changing a thing. It is still the same 
    failed regime.
      We got nothing from that deal.
      Mr. Speaker, I am so pleased to yield to the gentleman from Florida 
    (Mr. Diaz-Balart), the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on 
    Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. I had the honor of 
    serving with his older brother. I have the honor of serving with his 
    youngest brother now, Mario. Born in the United States and, just like 
    Carlos and Alex Mooney, Mr. Curbelo and Mr. Mooney, a gentleman who is 
    100 percent American and so proud of 100 percent of his Cuban ancestry.
      Thank you, Mario.
      Mr. DIAZ-BALART. Let me first thank you, Madam Chairwoman, for your 
    leadership. As we heard tonight, your leadership in the cause of 
    freedom does not stop at the shores of Cuba. Wherever there is 
    repression and oppression, there is the clear concise voice of 
    Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, as we have heard again tonight.
      Mr. Speaker, we have heard a lot. And I know that the time is getting 
    short, but I want to quote somebody whom we have not quoted, as far as 
    I remember here tonight, and this is President Obama. When Mr. Obama 
    was running for President he stated what the right policy, what his 
    policy would be to deal with the Cuban tyranny.
      He said: ``My policy towards Cuba will be guided by one word, 
    `libertad'--freedom. And the road to freedom for all Cubans must begin 
    with justice for Cuba's political prisoners, the right of free speech, 
    a free press, freedom assembly, and it must lead to elections that are 
    free and fair.''
      Mr. Obama went on to say: ``I will maintain the embargo. It provides 
    us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice. If you 
    take significant steps towards democracy, beginning with the freedom of 
    all--all--political prisoners,'' Mr. Obama said, ``we will take steps 
    to begin normalizing relations. That is the way to bring about real 
    change in Cuba,'' Mr. Obama said, ``through strong, smart principled 
    democracy.''
    
                                  {time}  2130
    
      Mr. Speaker, in essence, that day, then-candidate Obama, Senator 
    Obama, and now-President Obama drew a red line about what the right 
    policy was to deal with the Cuban regime; sadly, on December 17, 
    President Obama announced that he was breaking that promise, that he 
    was, once again, crossing--breaking--his own red line.
      We have heard tonight that we have also heard from the vast majority 
    of the pro-democracy leaders within the island who are struggling. They 
    have objected to President Obama's change of policy. Mr. Speaker, if 
    President Obama doesn't want to do it for the sake of a future of 
    freedom for the Cuban people, he should stand firm for the sake of the 
    national security interests of the United States.
      As we have heard today--right now, as we speak, not 50 years ago--the 
    Cuban regime harbors fugitives from American law, including cop killers 
    and terrorists. What is President Obama's answer? ``No problem, we will 
    normalize relations.''
      The Cuban regime has an active espionage network against the 
    interests of the United States. What is the President's answer to that? 
    ``No problem, we will normalize. You can continue to do that.''
      The Cuban regime shot down two American airplanes in international 
    airspace; and for the people who are in prison, including one who was 
    in prison for conspiracy to murder, not only is it okay--no problem, we 
    will normalize--but no. We will send them back. You can go back home.
      Mr. Speaker, the night is late, but I know and I am confident that, 
    unlike President Obama, this Congress will continue to stand firm with 
    the cause of freedom and the cause of a free Cuba, even while President 
    Obama does not.
      Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Thank you so much, Mr. Diaz-Balart. You so 
    eloquently stated that. We have so much to say, and we have run out of 
    time.
      Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
      The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair will remind Members not to refer 
    to guests on the floor of the House.
    
    [[Page H221]]
    
    
    
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