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Cuban-American Congressional Leaders Vow To Fight Obama's Proposals

A day after the president's announcement that he wants to normalize relations with Cuba, Cuban-American congressional leaders came together in Miami to condemn it as appeasement of a Communist regime.

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Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

One goal of the U.S. embargo on Cuba is to force political change. The U.S. government has not hidden its desire to promote human rights and free expression on the island. The Associated Press even reported on covert U.S. efforts to create a Twitter-like service to feed political opposition. When a MORNING EDITION team went to Cuba over the summer we spoke about efforts like this with a top official on Cuba's Foreign Ministry, Josefina Vidal.

JOSEFINA VIDAL: These are programs that are illegal in Cuba. They are implemented without any approval from Cuba, so these are illegal.

GREENE: And that kind of tension makes some doubt whether Cuba's government will respond when there is pressure to reform. As NPR's Greg Allen reports, this is one reason critics of President Obama feel betrayed after his decision to normalize relations with the island.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Yesterday, the Cuban-American community's Republican standard-bearers in Congress met in Miami to condemn President Obama's opening to Cuba. Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart said the president was wrong to make concessions to the Castro regime without getting assurances that Cuba would hold free elections and release the rest of its political prisoners.

REPRESENTATIVE MARIO DIAZ-BALART: What the president has done is give Castro, the Castro regime, a state sponsor of terrorism, exactly what they have been asking for.

ALLEN: Senator Marco Rubio said what's not clear yet is how far-reaching the president's proposals will be. Even the State Department, Rubio said, doesn't know yet how it will write the rules to carry out Obama's order. When they emerge, he said, Congress will scrutinize them very carefully.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: I think there are still legal questions about whether some of these moves that the president has announced violate the spirit and the letter of multiple laws.

ALLEN: Rubio represents the views of many Cuban-Americans, but by no means all. A poll by Florida International University shows a majority of Cuban-Americans now support lifting the 50-year-old trade embargo. Rubio said he didn't trust the poll, but even if he did he would be unmoved.

RUBIO: On matters of principle, such as human rights, it shouldn't matter if 99 percent of the people say it's OK to backup a dictatorship.

ALLEN: It's a debate Congress will take up when it returns in January. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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