DNC chairwoman criticizes Cuba thaw
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) believes that Cuba must improve its human rights before receiving warmer ties with the U.S.
Wasserman Schultz also said that her timeline for a diplomatic thaw differs from President Obama’s, according to The Daily Signal Thursday.
“My view is different from President Obama’s,” she told Daily Signal contributor David Brody.
“I believe a relationship with the United States should be earned … perhaps we should make sure that some of these human rights concessions are secured prior to moving forward,” added the Democratic National Committee chairwoman.
Obama announced last week that the U.S. and Cuba both plan on opening embassies in one another’s borders after five decades without them.
The landmark decision follows the president’s initial call for restoring diplomatic relations last December.
“This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people,” Obama said on July 1.
“We don’t have to be imprisoned by the past,” he added. “When something isn’t working, we can and will change.”
Wasserman Schultz said that despite her misgivings, the Obama administration’s thaw with Cuba is a rare opportunity for improving human rights conditions.
“Anytime we’re at the negotiating table with any nation like Cuba that has as horrendous a human rights record as they do, it’s an opportunity to be able to assert our view that making sure that any nation in the world should have freedom of their elections, that people should have the right to elect a person of their choice, that they should be able to speak freely, even if it is against the actions of their government and not be subject to arrest, that they should be able to make sure they can move freely throughout their country,” she said.
“So President Obama’s policy allows us to be able to press those priorities at the negotiating table,” she added.
The Obama administration cleared a major hurdle for restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba by dropping it from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism in May.
Critics argue that Obama’s decision ignores alleged human rights abuses under Cuban leader Raúl Castro.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are particularly opposed to the move given their state’s large population of Cuban exiles fleeing the Castro regime.
Bush suggested on Wednesday he is unlikely to keep open any embassy the Obama administration launches if he wins the presidency next year.
“Probably not,” he said when asked about maintaining an active embassy in Havana.
Rubio, meanwhile, called Obama’s Cuba policies a “Faustian bargain” in a New York Times op-ed published the same day.