Marco Rubio invokes Cuba, Ukraine in CPAC Florida speech on cancel culture

Warning of the dangers of authoritarian governments, Rubio also said the people of Ukraine “are inspiring the world.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, in Orlando.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, in Orlando. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]
Published Feb. 25, 2022|Updated Feb. 25, 2022

ORLANDO — Invoking the Cuban revolution, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said Friday that Democrats are leading the U.S. in the same direction of “tyranny” that prompted refugees to flee to Florida as he said “Marxism” becomes “infused” in the modern political debate.

In a roughly 15-minute speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, Rubio told attendees gathered in the hotel ballroom about his roots in Miami and how he’d grown up surrounded by people who fled oppression.

“Even I took for granted some of their warnings years ago about what happens to a society and a people when we empower those who believe that their job is to tell the rest of us how to live and think and believe, and how we are allowed to do it,” Rubio said.

He said that cancel culture, in which you are “one ‘like’ away from destroying your life,” and coronavirus regulations requiring people “to produce papers to go in somewhere, to sit somewhere” amount to a society being influenced by Marxism, even if it’s going by another name.

“I believe there are a lot of people in this country that are influenced by Marxism that don’t even realize they’re influenced by Marxism,” Rubio said, adding that Fidel Castro was not a self-described Marxist during the early days of his rise to power.

Related: DeSantis warns CPAC Florida crowd that left wants to make Republicans 'second-class citizens'

“That’s why the people I live among in the neighborhood I’ve lived in my entire life, you see the fury and desperation in their voice, because imagine you once lived in a country you had to flee because schools were telling your kids God didn’t exist, turn your parents in if they say something against the revolution ... and some of the same things seem to be happening again.”

He then shifted to the ongoing war in Ukraine, the result of an invasion ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, as a reminder of the stakes.

“The people of Ukraine are inspiring to the world,” Rubio said. “You have 70-something year-old men, elderly women, younger children taking up arms, prepared to sacrifice everything. ... It reminds you how valuable freedom and liberty is.”

Rubio’s appearance at the conference comes days before his planned boycott of President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union speech next week due to the strict COVID-19 guidelines.

Attendees of the speech, including both lawmakers and reporters, must submit to a health screening, have a negative PCR test from the day before the speech and must wear a high-quality mask, such as an N95 or KN95 mask.

During a Wednesday appearance on Newsmax, Rubio blasted the protocols as theater and suggested that he may not even watch the speech as it airs live.

“I’ll watch the replays on television. I don’t need to sit there and go through all of that just to make them feel good about how safe they’re being. Honestly, I’m just tired of all the COVID theater crap,” said Rubio, who delivered the Republican response to former President Barack Obama’s 2013 State of the Union.

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Miami Herald reporter Bryan Lowry contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.