Menendez scolds Flake over Cuba spring break joke

“With regard to Cuba, I've felt, perhaps differently than some of my colleagues on this panel, that the best way to foster change and progress toward democracy is to allow travel, free travel of Americans, to let them go as they wish,” Flake had said. “I don't think that that's a weakness or any capitulation at all. I think it's a — it's a way to show strength. In fact, I've often felt if we want a real get-tough policy with the Castro brothers, we should force them to deal with spring break once or twice.”

At the end of the hearing, when most senators had departed, Menenedez launched a broadside against Flake.

“To suggest that spring break is a form of torture to the Castro regime ... unfortunately, they are experts about torture, as is evidenced by the increasing brutal crackdown on peaceful democracy advocates on the island. Just in the last year, over 6,600 peaceful democracy advocates detained or arrested,” Menendez said.

“Just this past Sunday, the Ladies in White, a group of women who dress in white and march every Sunday ... tried to come together to go to church this past Sunday," Menendez continued. "And the result of that — these are individuals who are the relatives of former or current political prisoners in Castro's jails — the result is that more than 35 of the women in white were intercepted, beaten with belts, threatened [with] death by agents aiming guns at them, and temporarily arrested.

“And then we have a United States citizen, who all he tried to do is give access to the Internet to a small Jewish population in Havana, and has been languishing in jail for nearly four years. That's real torture,” Menendez said.