by Senator Ted Cruz
March 22, 2016

Yesterday and today (3/21-22) are sad days in American history. For decades, leftists and Hollywood liberals have made the pilgrimage to Cuba to pay homage to Fidel Castro and Raul Castro. It’s very chic, it’s very shi-shi, for leftists to celebrate vicious communist dictators.

Communist Havana has always been a magnet for the radical chic of the left, drawn like moths to the flame of this western outpost of totalitarian Communism. Back in the 1960s, the visitors included Angela Davis and Stokely Carmichael, while Che Guevara himself received Jean-Paul Sartre. Today, the President of the United States joined them.

This is an issue I know firsthand. My family has experienced the ravage of Communist Cuba. My father fought for the Cuban revolution. My father was imprisoned and tortured as a teenager by Batista. And my aunt, my Tia Sonia, was imprisoned and tortured by Castro’s goons.

Now, as President Obama is in Cuba, you know who he’s not going to meet? He’s not going to meet the dissidents who are being tortured right now by Raul and Fidel Castro, who are being silenced for daring to stand up. He’s not going to meet the Ladies in White.

As the President of the United States hangs out with Raul Castro and his henchmen with a retinue of celebrities in tow, political prisoners languishing in dungeons across the island will hear this message: Nobody has your back. You’re alone with your tormentors. The world has forgotten about you.

They will not be on TV, rubbing elbows with the Obamas or left-wing politicians like Nancy Pelosi. There will be no mojitos at the U.S. Embassy for them. Raul Castro denies their very existence.

News reports say there are more than 100 long-term prisoners of conscience in Cuba. Nobody knows for sure, as the Castro regime does not grant international organizations access to its prisons. But we know they are there and that hundreds are held for shorter periods, and beaten in prison regularly.

Until Obama, siding with the oppressed had always been America’s aspiration. We have done so not just out of an abiding sense of justice, but also for hard-nosed reasons of national interest. In Cuba the Castros have been the implacable enemies of the United States for more than half a century. It is in our interests to make common cause with the brave souls who oppose them.

Former Soviet political prisoner Natan Sharansky, for example, now a leading Israeli politician and a moral voice, was in the Gulag when President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union “the evil empire” in 1983. Afterward he said, “It was the brightest, most glorious day … our whole block burst out into a kind of loud celebration.”

This is why it is so sad, and so injurious to our future as well as Cuba’s, that Obama has chosen to legitimize the corrupt and oppressive Castro regime with his presence on the island.

The White House keeps saying that this trip will chart a new course for people-to-people relations, but all that Obama’s appeasement of the Castro dictatorship has done so far is create a channel for inside deals between large corporations and the Cuban military, which holds all the keys to the island’s economy.

The effect will not be liberalization but rather the institutionalization of the Communist dictatorship as the profits from this détente will line the pockets not only of Fidel and Raul Castro, but also of Raul’s son, Alejandro Castro Espin.

Corporate cronyism, meet communist totalitarianism.

Just two months ago, the president told Yahoo News that he would only travel to Cuba “if, in fact, I with confidence can say that we’re seeing some progress in the liberty and freedom and possibilities of ordinary Cubans. … If we’re going backwards, then there’s not much reason for me to be there.”

I have news, Mr. President: No progress has taken place. Cuba is going backward.

Last Friday (3/18) a makeshift boat was rescued off Marco Island, Flordia carrying 18 desperate refugees who were willing to risk their lives rather than endure the “progress” in Cuba. Nine had perished on the journey.

The independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation says that 1,141 Cubans were detained for political reasons last month alone, following the 1,447 that were detained in January.

So sycophancy is having the effect is always does: It is telling our enemies that they can behave with impunity.

America should be standing for freedom, not sending billions to oppressive dictators who hate America and who are spreading terrorism throughout Latin America. And I would note, sadly, this has been the pattern of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy.

Take the nation of Iran. This administration has sent over a hundred billion dollars to a bilious regime that hates America. The Ayatollah Khamenei chants ‘death to America’ and this administration is funding Khamenei’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons to be used to murder Americans.

The same thing is happening with Cuba. Where this administration is allowing billions of dollars to flow to Cuba, to strengthen Fidel and Raul Castro and that money, we know what will be done with it. It will be used to oppress the Cuban people. It will be used to spread terrorism throughout Latin America and it will be used to attack America.

I have this to say to Mr. Obama:  You, the President of the United States, have now legitimized the corrupt and ignored the oppressed.  What’s American about that?  Nothing.

I have this to say to the people of Cuba who are witnessing this gaudy spectacle in Havana: America has not forgotten you. When I am president, I will never forget you.

I cannot wait as president to visit Cuba, but when I visit Cuba it will be a free Cuba. It will be a Cuba without Raúl Castro, without Fidel Castro.

I cannot wait to celebrate with the people of Cuba, 90 miles off America’s shore, their liberation, their freedom from the communist dictatorship that has sacked their future that has destroyed their economy, destroyed their freedom, destroyed so many lives.

And that will only happen with a President who doesn’t side reflexively with every enemy of America, who doesn’t side reflexively with Iran and North Korea and Cuba while he ignores Israel and the United Kingdom and Canada and our allies.

This president gets it exactly backwards.  I will not.

Senator Ted Cruz