In a bit of bad timing, Jeff Flake arrived in Cuba today, one day too late to celebrate dictator Fidel Castro’s 89th birthday. Flake is among a group accompanying Secretary of State John Kerry as the American flag is raised over the U.S. Embassy in Havana for the first time in nearly 55 years. Barack Obama restored diplomatic relations with the Communist regime July 20, — something Jeff Flake has long advocated.
The deal included the swapping of three Cuban spies held in the U.S. and the return of an American government contractor imprisoned in Cuba. At that time, Jeff Flake was Obama’s choice to be the only Republican on a “secret flight to Havana” to bring home the jailed American. “I felt like I was in a Tom Clancy novel,” Flake boasted to the New York Times.
On today’s Cuba trip, Flake is once again part of Obama’s contingent of Democrats and administration insiders. On his recent trip to Kenya, accompanying Barack Obama, Flake was the sole Republican among nearly two dozen Democrats.
Many Republicans oppose the renewed relations, since Cuba has made no moves to improve its human rights record and make other reforms, but is making demands on the U.S.
When what was known as the Bay of Pigs invasion went sour in 1961, Castro used the attack by “Yankee imperialists” to strengthen his grasp in Cuba and build an alliance with the Soviets in the USSR, which included missiles, and the construction of missile bases. The Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 took place the year Jeff Flake was born and the year preceding Obama’s birth. They have no recollection of the fear produced by warheads aimed at the U.S. from the rogue regime 90 miles off the Florida coast.
When the renewed relations were announced, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) greeted the news with these words: “This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, on a lie, the lie and the illusion that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people. All this is going to do is give the Castro regime, which controls every aspect of Cuban life, the opportunity to manipulate these changes to perpetuate itself in power.” Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants, who fled the repressive regime during the Communist takeover.
Rubio has said he will seek to block confirmation of a U.S. ambassador to Cuba until topics, such as outstanding claims for confiscated U.S. properties, the return of U.S. fugitives living in Cuba and political freedom for the Cuban people, are addressed. Members of the Cuban-American congressional delegation also oppose additional funding for the embassy.
Castro is now claiming, “Cuba is owed compensation equivalent to damages, which total many millions of dollars, as our country has stated with irrefutable arguments and data in all of its speeches at the United Nations.”
The Miami Herald reports another cloud over the budding relationship is an estimated $6 billion to $8 billion, in today’s dollars, in 5,913 certified claims by U.S. companies and citizens whose properties were expropriated by Cuba during the early years of the island nation’s revolution.
Communist Cuba champion and Obama advance-man Jeff Flake should be able to fly somewhere with a plane load of Democrats and get this matter resolved.