By Ben Kamisar - 12/17/14 11:30 AM EST
Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioFlorida paper endorses Clinton, writes separate piece on why not Trump GOP lawmakers slam secret agreement to help lift Iran bank sanctions Overnight Finance: Lawmakers float criminal charges for Wells Fargo chief | Scrutiny on Trump's Cuba dealings | Ryan warns of recession if no tax reform MORE (R-Fla.) harshly criticized President Obama for agreeing to exchange Cuban spies for an American imprisoned in Cuba, calling his foreign policy “naïve” and “truly counterproductive for the future of democracy in the region.”
“All of these tyrants around the world know that the U.S. can be had, that it’s a pretty easy deal,” he said on Fox News Channel’s “America’s Newsroom."
“At minimum, Barack Obama is the worst negotiator that we’ve had as president since at least Jimmy Carter, and maybe in the modern history of the country.”
Those sentiments came on top of a statement released by Rubio’s office in which he asserted that “America will be less safe as a result of the president’s change in policy.”
“Governments now know that, if they can take an American hostage, they can get very significant concessions from the United States,” he said.
“It’s par for the course with an administration that is constantly giving away unilateral concessions, whether it’s Iran or, in this case Cuba, in exchange for nothing.”
The Cuban government freed American aid worker Alan Gross Wednesday morning in an exchange involving three Cuban prisoners held in the United States.
Those prisoners were part of the “Cuban Five,” a group of Cuban spies who have been serving time in American prisons since their conviction in 2001.
On top of the exchange, the president is expected to announce steps to normalize full diplomatic relations with Cuba. Rubio said he expects those steps to include opening trade and travel between the countries, as well as increasing diplomatic communications, as the administration hopes to inspire democracy.
American-Cuban relations have been tense since the U.S. instituted an embargo in 1960, as Cold War tensions with Communist countries heightened.
“Nothing the president will announce today will further that goal,” Rubio said on the possibility of Cuba becoming more democratic.
“They are creating no economic openings, no concessions on freedom of speech, no concessions on elections.”
In the statement released by his office, Rubio added that as incoming chairman of a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee, he will “make every effort to block this dangerous and desperate attempt by the president to burnish his legacy at the Cuban people’s expense.”
Rubio said later Wednesday morning on CNN’s “This Hour” that the current embargo can be leverage for the United States to help influence democratic changes in a new government after current President Raúl Castro, who is 83-years-old, passes away. He added that easing restrictions on Cuba now hurts that long-term strategy.
“When has tourism ever brought about democracy?” he said on CNN. “This government controls every aspect of life in Cuba. Every single policy change the U.S. has ever made towards Cuba, whether it’s more travel, more person to person contact, more remittances, they have manipulated every single one of them and they will manipulate this as well."
"They will use all of these changes to their advantage, they will never allow any of these changes to undermine their grip on the island.”
This story was updated at 12:10 p.m.