Rubio: Obama's moves on Cuba are 'one-sided concessions'

Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioRubio: 'I didn't run for the Senate to run for president again' Sunday shows preview: Next steps after Trump upheaval O'Malley gives Trump a nickname: 'Chicken Donald' MORE (R-Fla.) says President Obama's decision to loosen travel and trade restrictions with Cuba will only embolden the Castro government. 

“The Obama administration's one-sided concessions to Cuba further empower the regime and enable it with an economic windfall," Rubio said Tuesday.
 
"These regulations are more proof that the Obama administration's intent has never been to empower the Cuban people but rather to empower the Cuban government's monopolies and state-run enterprises." 
 
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The Cuban-American senator's comments come after the Obama administration announced regulatory changes to increase authorized travel to Cuba and improve trade with the island nation.
 
Rubio, a Republican presidential candidate, has been one of the Senate's loudest critics of Obama's Cuba strategy.
 
Rubio added Tuesday that America's Cuba policy should be focused on U.S. national security interests, as well as expanding political freedom and human rights for Cubans. 
 
"None of [these] are advanced through Obama's latest concessions," he said. 
 
The White House, however, says the the new rules changes will directly benefit Cuban citizens.
 
Ned Price, a spokesman for the the White House's National Security Council, said that in addition to bolstering the Cuban people, the changes will also bolster U.S. efforts to support "human rights, improving the lives of the Cuban people, and promoting closer ties between our peoples." 
 
While Congressional Republicans and the GOP 2016 presidential field have broadly criticized Obama's Cuban policy, Tuesday's announcement was welcomed by at least one GOP lawmaker. 
 
Sen. Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeMcConnell quashes Senate effort on guns Bipartisan gun measure survives test vote Senate Republicans may defy NRA on guns MORE (R-Ariz.) praised the administration's decision, which he said followed "fifty years of regulatory inertia." 
 
"Hopefully, such progress in the effort to normalize U.S.-Cuba relations spurs Congress to consider more permanent solutions, starting with legislation to restore the freedom of U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba," he added. 
 
Flake has introduced legislation with a bipartisan group of senators, including Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), to lift travel restrictions for Americans going to Cuba. 
 
Leahy added separately Tuesday that Congress should "do its part and represent the overwhelming majority of Americans who want the embargo to end."
 
Any push to end the decades-old trade embargo will likely face an uphill fight in a the GOP-controlled Congress. Tourist activities in Cuba are also still prohibited under the regulation changes the Obama administration announced Tuesday. 

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