Republican presidential hopefuls reject US-Cuba accord

Washington, July 2 (IANS) Republican presidential hopefuls for 2016 have unequivocally expressed their opposition to the agreement between the US and Cuba to re-establish bilateral diplomatic relations, broken off in 1961, and re-open embassies in the two capitals.

Wednesday’s announcement by the government regarding the new arrangement with Cuba was immediately harshly criticised by the candidates for the Republican primaries, while their Democratic opponents hailed it and closed ranks around President Barack Obama, Efe news agency reported.

The US and Cuba confirmed the restoration of bilateral ties and reopening of their embassies on July 20.

The argument of the Republican opposition is that the US is opening up to Cuba without obtaining anything in exchange: the island has not launched any reform in the area of human rights and has not changed its stance regarding the requests for compensation for the properties confiscated from Americans during the Cuban Revolution.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush and one of the Republican favourites to take the party’s presidential nomination said in a statement that the “true test” of the Obama administration’s reconciliation with the Cuban regime was whether the improvement of relations between Washington and Havana had advanced the cause of freedom and human rights for Cubans.

The arrests of dissidents and continuing abuses by the regime suggest that the policies of the administration are failing, he added.

Along the same lines, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who is of Cuban origin, said that during the entire negotiation process with Cuban President Raul Castro, that government had increased its repression of the Cuban people but the Obama administration had looked the other way and offered concession after concession.

Rubio, whose family emigrated to the US in 1956 before the Cuban Revolution, said it was time to put an end to the unilateral concessions by the Washington.

Sharing that opinion was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who declared his candidacy on Tuesday, saying that Obama was profoundly mistaken in undertaking the opening toward Cuba.

He said that the Cuban regime had done nothing to reform itself but Obama had allowed diplomatic relations to be reestablished anyway.

Former Texas governor Rick Perry, meanwhile, said that the agreement with Cuba was just the latest example of Obama ignoring reality in exchange for superficial political “victories”.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the son of a Cuban immigrant father, reiterated his opposition to funding the embassy in Havana at least until the president can prove that there has been some progress on alleviating the “misery” of the Cuban people.

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