— U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio vowed to oppose the confirmation of any nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Cuba unless he sees “concrete results” on a set of democratic and human rights issues.
The Republican from West Miami, who is running for president in a crowded GOP field, wrote Secretary of State John Kerry, laying out his demands.
Rubio has been a leader in Congress in pushing back on the White House’s opening to Cuba, which was announced in December. His comments echoed previous statements on the matter; in February, for example, he noted there are “multiple ways to stop an ambassador nomination, and I reserve the right to use all of them.”
The opening to Cuba is a multi-pronged effort that has already relaxed some travel and financial restrictions, and is quickly moving toward the establishment of a greater diplomatic presence in Havana. It could eventually lead to a full lifting of the trade embargo with the country. The White House can accomplish some steps on its own, while Congress would need to weigh in on other aspects.
As it stands now, the U.S. diplomatic presence in Havana can function without a confirmed ambassador, and some experts on Cuban issues are skeptical the Senate would confirm one, no matter Rubio’s stance.
Rubio’s position, laid out in his letter, address four concerns: the lack of political reforms on the island; the harboring of known terrorists and other fugitives from U.S. justice; the outstanding American property claims and judgments against the Cuban government; and the limitations that continue to be placed on American diplomats working in Havana.
He wrote: “I hope to see a free and democratic Cuba, but that means we must confront the authoritarian Castro regime that suppresses its own people, not acquiesce to their demands.”