Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida called President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba "disgraceful."
The former presidential candidate, who will not be seeking re-election for his senate seat or any political position in the foreseeable future, and whose family came from Cuba, offered a scathing criticism of Obama’s extended diplomatic visit to the island nation that began on March 20, Tampa Bay Times reports.
“On Sunday, President Obama will touch down in Cuba for what promises to be one of the most disgraceful trips ever taken by a U.S. president anywhere in the world,” Rubio wrote.
The Florida senator accused the Obama administration of “giving away legitimacy and money to an anti-American regime that actively undermines our national security interests and acts against our values every single day.”
Rubio ridiculed the baseball game scheduled for the end of the tour of Cuba, declaring “he thinks this is a game … America should be standing with our allies and democracy advocates around the world, not embracing, enriching and empowering our enemies, the way President Obama is about to do in Cuba.”
Rubio has been a staunch opponent of the Obama administration’s efforts at restarting relations with Cuba and lifting the trade embargo.
During the March 10 GOP debate, the last one Rubio participated in before dropping out of the 2016 Republican primary, the Florida senator slammed front-runner Donald Trump for being soft on criticizing the Castro regime, Politico reports.
Rubio said he would only consider changing relations with the U.S. and Cuba if “Cuba has free elections, Cuba stops putting people in jail for speaking out, it kicks out the Chinese listening station, it stops helping North Korea evade U.N. Sanctions … that’s a good deal.”
The 44-year-old senator’s stance mirrors that of many older generation Cuban Americans, who have not forgiven the Castro regime and view opening up relations as capitulation. This position put Rubio at odds with younger voters.
“Younger Cubans overwhelmingly support a policy of engagement and expanding travel,” political director David Gomez of CubaNow told The Huffington Post. “He’s [Rubio] kind of reaching out to a crowd that’s not there anymore.”
Cuban Research Institute fellow Frank Mora of Florida International University believed that this difference in priorities limited Rubio’s electoral appeal even in his home state, where Trump handily defeated him.
“I think Senator Rubio — politically speaking, at least, is sort of disconnected with his constituency, particularly young people,” Mora said. “Just because there’s a younger face, but the message is pretty much the same, doesn’t make young people vote for you.”