Rubio wants Kerry to rethink Cuba upgrade on human rights

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is pressing the Obama administration to reconsider its upgraded ranking of Cuba in a recent human trafficking report. 
The Florida Republican, a Cuban American who is running for president, sent a letter on Thursday to Secretary of State John Kerry suggesting that a Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report released last month was the subject of “politically driven manipulation.” 
{mosads}”The most glaring example is the politically driven improvement of Cuba from the ‘Tier 3’ category to the ‘Tier 2 Watch List,'” he wrote. “Over the past year, Cuba has done almost nothing to combat human trafficking.” 
In addition to demanding the administration reconsider its ranking, Rubio also wants Kerry to hand over all “prior drafts” of the Cuba section in the trafficking report, the names of all State Department and White House officials who signed off on the section and a copy of the Cuban government plan to combat trafficking. 
The administration’s trafficking report drew swift pushback from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle over concerns that countries, including Cuba and Malaysia, had received improved rankings despite little progress on human rights. 
A report from Reuters that found that State Department political officials overruled the office set up to analyze countries’ human rights records. Officials in that office, according to Reuters, thought Cuba hadn’t improved its handling of human rights. 
Referring to the article, Rubio said the administration was setting a “dangerous precedent.” 
“The Administration’s unfounded elevation of Cuba on human trafficking sends a chilling message that the U.S., at least under this president, is more interested in headlines about its historic Cuba policy than it is in challenging the Castro regime to protect Cuba’s youth from human trafficking exploitation,” he added. 
Rubio’s letter to Kerry comes after the Foreign Relations Committee asked last week for all documents used to determine the rankings. 
The administration has defended its decision to upgrade Cuba, and Kerry said that ultimately the decision rests with him. 
“The trafficking in persons is a judgment that was made based on the merits of what Cuba has done and engaged in respect to counter-trafficking efforts. Every judgment is based on the record,” he said during an interview with Telemundo’s José Díaz-Balart. “I make the final decision. I had no discussion outside of this building with the White House or any other entity about whether or not this should happen.” 
It also comes as Kerry is traveling this week to Havana to raise the U.S. flag over its newly reopened embassy. 
Rubio has hammered the administration this week on Cuba’s human rights record. In a separate letter, he requested that Kerry meet with dissidents while in the country and invite them to an event at the embassy. 
Kerry said that while they wouldn’t be at the flag-raising ceremony, he would meet with them separately. 
Tags John Kerry Marco Rubio

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