Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) (AP)
(CNSNews.com) – Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) raised concerns in a letter to President Barack Obama on Friday over the worsening human rights situation in Cuba in light of the administration’s recent easing of the economic embargo between the United States and Cuba.
They also argued that Obama’s recent directive is an overreach of Executive authority regarding congressionally enacted sanctions with Cuba.
The letter outlines some of the growing human rights concerns in Cuba since Obama laid out a plan to re-establish diplomatic relations in December 2014.
“Human rights conditions in the country have worsened,” the congressmen claim, citing former Treasury official and executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates, Mauricio Claver-Carone’s September testimony before the House Agriculture committee. He testified that political arrests in Cuba have intensified, Internet connectivity has dropped, and religious freedom violations have increased tenfold since the policy change was announced.
They also cite the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation’s documentation of 8,616 political arrests in 2015, and 8,505 political arrests through September of this year.
“Additionally,” they note, “several of the prisoners released by Cuba as part of the announcement of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations were rearrested with even longer prison sentences, according to your State Department’s own human rights report.”
Senator Lankford and Rep. Diaz Balart conclude with a series of questions for the Obama administration regarding what they call “continued circumvention of the congressionally-enacted embargo on Cuba.”
“Section 204(a) of Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-114) states that the embargo on Cuba may be lifted only pursuant to certification that a genuine transition government in Cuba is in power,” they write. “As there is no democratically-elected government in power in Cuba, please explain how your policy of weakening sanctions adheres to both the letter and the spirit of this law.”
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.)
Regarding the authorization of “all transactions incident to the processing and payment of credit and debit cards” while Americans are traveling to Cuba, the congressmen ask “how will your Administration ensure compliance with section 103 of the LIBERTAD Act, which prohibits credit and financing to any person involving confiscated property which is claimed by a U.S. national? What procedures and safeguards are in place at the Department of the Treasury, and other federal agencies, to ensure that U.S. law is followed and that confiscated properties are not trafficked as defined in the Act?”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) raised the same concern over the president’s easing of sanctions being in compliance with Section 103 of the LIBERTAD Act in a January 2015 letter to Secretary Treasury Jacob Lew.
They also ask what steps the administration is “taking to ensure that trademarks belonging to U.S. companies are not adversely affected, or possibly further exploited or expropriated, by your policy of allowing imports of rum and tobacco products.”
President Barack Obama and Cuba's Communist dictator Raul Castro, brother of dictator Fidel Castro. (AP)
“Is your Administration in full compliance with section 201(b) of the LIBERTAD Act, which requires U.S. diplomatic personnel to communicate the reasons for the economic embargo on Cuba and encourage foreign officials to cooperate more effectively with the embargo?” They ask, “If so, please explain what steps your Administration is taking to execute this law.”
“We encourage you and your administration, in the waning days of your presidency, to provide at least as much transparency and engagement with the U.S. Congress as you apparently have cultivated with the Castro dictatorship,” the letter concludes.