Rubio said Castro government officials are master manipulators of U.S. policy and public opinion.
The two senators favor a hard-line stance against Cuba until regime change takes place. Critics of that policy argue that more than 50 years of U.S. sanctions have only enabled Castro brothers Fidel and Raul to consolidate their power while impoverishing the Cuban people.
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson made it clear the White House policy isn't going to change, the senators' concerns notwithstanding.
The Obama administration's priority is to “empower Cubans to freely determine their own future,” Jacobson testified. “The most effective tool we have for doing that is building connections between the Cuban and American people in order to give Cubans the support and tools they need to move forward, independent of their government.
“U.S. citizens engaging in well-defined, purposeful travel are the best ambassadors for our democratic ideals. The hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans who have sent remittances and traveled to the island since we eased the way for them early in the administration are an essential part of the strategy to ensure Cubans have these opportunities.”
Despite their divergent views, Jacobson and the senators agreed to work together to further democratization on the island, for example, by spreading access to the Internet.