NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today issued the following statement on the U.S. embassy opening in Cuba:
“A flag representing freedom and liberty will rise today in a country ruled by a repressive regime that denies its people democracy and basic human rights. This is the embodiment of a wrongheaded policy that rewards the Castro regime's brutality at the expense of the Cuban people's right to freedom of expression and independence.
“This past Sunday, Cuban agents arrested over 90 peaceful protestors, and today – barely a week after this all too common demonstration of arbitrary, heavy handed police force – Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Cuba is validation of the Castro regime's repressive policies. He will meet Cuban officials in the sunlight, but not the leaders and activists of Cuban civil society who live in the shadows and are tormented by the state.
“When our flag rises in the courtyard of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, missing will be Berta Soler of the Ladies in White, UNPACU leader Jose Daniel Ferrer, human rights activists like Guillermo Fariñas and Antunez, independent journalists and bloggers, or bereaved family members of dissidents who deserve a better future.
“It is shameful that on the grounds of our embassy in Havana, the Cuban regime can dictate to the United States government who may or may not attend this ceremony. If dissent is denied in the courtyard of the U.S. Embassy, it will never be allowed anywhere in Cuba. These are not values I associate with the United States.
“This is a one-sided deal that is a win for the Cuban regime and a loss for the Cuban people. The U.S. Embassy in Havana will be a hollow one, with the Cuban government limiting our diplomats the freedom of movement. It will be diplomacy for show, not in practice.
“The United States' flag should only fly in Cuba when the island is free, when dissent is embraced, and when democracy is restored.”