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Rubio says State Department ‘bureaucrats’ limited Cuba restrictions

Castor calls them 'part of the backwards policy of the Trump administration'

Sen. Marco Rubio isn't entirely pleased with today's Cuba policy news, asserting that restrictions stopped short due to "bureaucrats in the State Department" who oppose the changes brought by President Trump.

"The regulatory changes announced today by Treasury and Commerce begin to implement President Trump's June 2017 policy for enforcing U.S. sanctions laws against the Castro regime," Rubio said in a statement.

"Unfortunately however, bureaucrats in the State Department who oppose the President's Cuba policy refused to fully implement it when they omitted from the Cuba Restricted List several entities and sub-entities that are controlled by or act on behalf of the Cuban military, intelligence or security services. These include Gran Caribe Hotel Group and Cubanacan. I remain confident that this effort by some in the State Department to undermine the president's directive will be addressed."

Rubio helped craft the policy, along with Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami. Rubio's statement does not provide any detail for the assertion.

Meantime, the Engage Cuba group, which advocates for open ties with the country, played off concerns Russia could see an opportunity.

"The Trump Administration has yet again shown their hypocritical approach to human rights. The great irony of releasing these regulations while President Trump stands in Communist China is dumbfounding, but not surprising," the group said in a statement. "It is deeply unfortunate that this policy was guided by politics and the personal agenda of two Members of Congress, not a genuine concern for the Cuban people who overwhelmingly support engagement with the United States."

"It seems we have fumbled our Cuba policy right into the hands of Vladimir Putin. While the Cuban people and U.S. businesses lose out, reverting back to our policy of isolation is a gift to the Kremlin. Russia is quickly expanding its foothold in Cuba, looking to regain its once diminished sphere of influence in our backyard. Abandoning Cuba and allowing Russia to fill a leadership vacuum is undoubtedly a threat to our national security."

Here is Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa:

"The regulations announced today are part of the backwards policy of the Trump administration to return to failed Cold War isolationist policies toward Cuba and the Cuban people.  Instead, America should be focused on supporting Cuba's growing private sector by encouraging more Americans to travel to Cuba rather than adding burdensome restrictions on Americans, cultural exchanges and businesses.

"Since the U.S. reestablished diplomatic ties with Cuba, thousands of Americans have visited and numerous businesses have explored new markets.  These activities have not only opened new economic opportunities for Americans and Cubans alike, they serve as an integral part of our efforts to promote the spread of democracy and ensure the security of our region.  I am disappointed that today's regulations do nothing to promote human rights and economic growth in Cuba and will only further harm the growing private sector on the island.

"I also am disappointed in the lack of progress and resources devoted to the investigation of the unexplained episodes involving health problems suffered by our diplomatic personnel in Havana.  I was advised by Trump administration officials in October that U.S. investigators had left with no determination as to the nature or cause of these incidents.  Furthermore, every day that goes by without adequate embassy personnel available to process visas harms Cuban and American families.  The U.S. has now effectively ended travel by Cubans to visit their loved ones in the U.S. under the nonimmigrant visa.  This is cruel and heartbreaking for many families who I see in my Tampa office regularly."