As world dignitaries gathered in Cuba Tuesday to pay tribute to revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen took to the House floor to deliver her own speech of how the fallen leader should be remembered.
The outspoken critic of the Castro regime criticized the many world leaders who, she says, are fawning over Fidel Castro. She took particular aim at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has faced a storm of criticism after praising the Cuban leader as “remarkable,” a “larger than life leader who served his people.”
Ros-Lehtinen made three speeches from the floor of the lower chamber, charging world leaders with romanticizing the legacy of a “thug” and a “despot.” She recalled how as an 8-year-old she was forced to flee her homeland with her family. She honored those who were not able to escape or survive the journey.
“This is a man who should be condemned, not eulogized,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
This is a man who should be condemned, not eulogized. Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Here are her remarks from Wednesday:
Mr. Speaker, over the years I have come down here regularly to this very floor in this Chamber – one of the most iconic symbols of democracy – and urged the United States to do more to support the cause of freedom for my native homeland, Cuba.
In tow would be posters, like the ones I have here now, depicting images of the real Cuba – the Cuba in which opposition to the Castro regime is met with violence and harassment; extrajudicial punishment and confinement in one of the many Cuban gulags built by Fidel Castro.
These images would show what the regime under Fidel Castro would do to the Ladies in White.
These women, clad in white and carrying gladiolus flowers, march peacefully to Mass every Sunday, praying for their loved ones wrongfully imprisoned by the regime, only to be harassed and beaten by Castro’s thugs.
I came to this floor to voice my support for these brave women;
Like Laura Pollan, who was mysteriously killed, no doubt by the regime, and Berta Soler.
Mr. Speaker, I have come to this very floor denouncing the Castro regime’s treatment of opposition leaders, like Jorge Luis Garcia “Antunez” Perez, who was imprisoned for 17 years by Castro for speaking out against communism and refusing the regime’s communist re-education program.
I spoke out in support of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, who was sentenced to 25 years in Castro’s prisons for crimes against Cuba’s sovereignty – which in Cuba is code for calling for reforms – and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George Bush.
I stood here for Coco Farinas, who went on a 50-day hunger strike to bring attention to the plight of the Cuban people, and for Cuban rapper El Sexto, who was jailed last week when the regime announced the tyrant’s death;
I stood here in solidarity with Cubans like Antonio Rodiles, who was arrested hours before President Obama landed in Cuba earlier this year.
I have come down to this well time and again to call attention to the abuses being committed by Fidel Castro against the Cuban people – the people of my homeland that I was forced to flee as a little girl – and to the people who have had everything taken away from them and could not speak for themselves.
And I have repeatedly come down to this very podium to call my colleagues’ attention to the threat that Fidel Castro and his regime pose to the U.S. and our national security.
This thug, Fidel Castro, who attempted to infiltrate every level of our government through its intelligence services – like convicted Cuban spy Ana Belen Montes;
This despot, who allied himself with our greatest threats like Iran and Russia, and allowed Russia to put up a facility in Cuba in order to spy on our nation.
This autocrat who told the Iranian Ayatollah that both Iran and Cuba would bring the U.S. to its knees and who tried to bring the world to nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
And yet this is a man whose legacy the world wants to romanticize;
They whitewash his horrific crimes and claim he is some legendary folk hero.
The truth is, Mr. Speaker, that Fidel Castro was a sadistic murderer, a tyrant and a hypocrite.
He was a man who took control over all industry and decried capitalism, yet somehow was likely worth about a billion dollars when he died.
When 11 million Cubans are barely struggling to get by under his communist regime, this is a man who died with more wealth than the entire nation.
Mr. Speaker, Fidel Castro is dead and Cuba and the world are better for it.
Now we have an opportunity to move forward by reversing some of the administration’s concessions to the regime and pressing for reforms.
It’s time the Cuban people have the opportunity to achieve the freedom and democracy they have been yearning for.
We must pressure the regime and we must not relent until there are free and fair elections, until all political prisoners are released from the gulags, and until their basic and fundamental human rights are restored.
Let that be how we honor the countless Cubans that have lost their lives or who suffered under Fidel Castro.