Not long after the White House announced the president's intent to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, Sen. Marco Rubio was out with video responses in English and Spanish decrying the much-anticipated move.
"Well, the decision made by the White House today is a terrible one, but not surprising unfortunately. Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism. They harbor fugitives of American justice, including someone who killed a police officer in New Jersey over 30 years ago. It’s also the country that’s helping North Korea evade weapons sanctions by the United Nations," Rubio said. "They should have remained on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and I think sends a chilling message to our enemies aboard that this White House is no longer serious about calling terrorism by its proper name."
The news comes a day after Rubio was in Miami to launch his bid for the presidency in 2016, and the Democratic National Committee was ready to criticize Rubio's reaction.
"For a guy who just yesterday said he wanted to be a new leader and usher in a new American century, it sure sounds like Marco Rubio is clinging to an outdated foreign policy relic from the Cold War," DNC Communications Director Mo Elleithee said.
That might come as news to New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, who blasted the decision in his own statement.
"There is no explanation, no justification, and no comfort that can be provided today to the family of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster who was murdered in cold blood by Joanne Chesimard. New Jersey's law enforcement community will forever mourn the loss of Trooper Foerster and today's announcement reopens a painful wound for so many people in my state," Menendez said. "This decision also leaves the FBI wondering how one of the Top 10 Most Wanted Terrorists list, Joanne Chesimard, who is wanted for murdering a New Jersey State Trooper, will ever face justice.
“This decision to take Cuba off the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism sends a message that you can continue to be complicit as Cuba has – with North Korea and China – in the smuggling of jets, missiles, and other weapons in direct violation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions – and do it with impunity."
The timing was expected, though, as the State Department had recently recommended taking Cuba off the list. Obama met with Cuban President Raul Castro while both were in Panama for the Summit of the Americas.
"As the President has said, we will continue to have differences with the Cuban government, but our concerns over a wide range of Cuba's policies and actions fall outside the criteria that is relevant to whether to rescind Cuba's designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. That determination is based on the statutory standard – and the facts – and those facts have led the President to declare his intention to rescind Cuba's State Sponsor of Terrorism designation," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement. "More broadly, the United States will continue to support our interests and values through engagement with the Cuban government and people."
Democratic supporters of the move, including Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, were quick to chime in with statements supporting Obama's action.
"The President’s action is another long-overdue and courageous step toward ending a failed policy and normalizing relations with Cuba. We have many differences with the Cuban government. But it makes no sense, and it devalues the list of state sponsors of international terrorism, to include a country that hundreds of thousands of Americans visit annually, whose government our friends and allies engage with regularly to their benefit, and that poses no threat to the United States," Leahy said.
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