U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a key voice opposing the United States’ opening to Cuba, reacted to the news that the two nations are set to establish their embassies by repeating his vow to oppose one of the next steps in the thawing process -- the appointment of an ambassador to the island nation -- until certain conditions are met.
The opening to Cuba was first announced in December. It is a multi-pronged effort that has already relaxed some travel and financial restrictions and is quickly moving toward the establishment of a greater diplomatic presence in Havana. On Tuesday, word leaked that the two nations were planning to open embassies in their respective capitals; a formal announcement on that is expected Wednesday.
The thawing could eventually lead to a full lifting of the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba and open travel there. The White House can accomplish some steps on its own, while Congress would need to weigh in on other aspects.
Rubio, a Republican from West Miami, Fla., who is in the top tier of GOP presidential candidates for the 2016 nomination, is a leading voice against the Cuban opening. While the politics of the Cuban opening are somewhat mixed, other GOP lawmakers tend to defer to Rubio on the issue.
Last month, Rubio wrote Secretary of State John Kerry, laying out a set of demands that would need to be met before he would support an ambassador to Cuba. As it stands now, the U.S. diplomatic presence in Havana can function without a confirmed ambassador, and some experts on Cuban issues are skeptical the Senate would confirm one, no matter Rubio’s stance.
Rubio reiterated his stance Wednesday, calling this week’s news a “prized concession to the Castro regime."
He added: "It remains unclear what, if anything, has been achieved since the president’s December 17th announcement in terms of securing the return of U.S. fugitives being harbored in Cuba, settling outstanding legal claims to U.S. citizens for properties confiscated by the regime, and in obtaining the unequivocal right of our diplomats to travel freely throughout Cuba and meet with any dissidents, and most importantly, securing greater political freedoms for the Cuban people. I intend to oppose the confirmation of an ambassador to Cuba until these issues are addressed.”