U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following remarks earlier today at a Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing titled "Cuba's Global Network of Terrorism, Intelligence, and Warfare." Ros-Lehtinen criticized the Obama Administration's easing of relations with the Castro regime as well as lack of enforcement of U.S. laws that pertain to Cuba.
Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"The timing of this hearing could not be more appropriate as it raises grave questions about the Administration's policies toward the Castro dictatorship and the threats to our homeland. I would like to focus, in particular, on the appalling open-door policy that the Administration appears to have adopted for regime officials and operatives. We're talking about agents of a State Department designated state-sponsor of terrorism, agents of a regime that seeks to destabilize our democratic partners in our Hemisphere, and agents of a dictatorship that has a long-standing alliance with the Iranian regime.
"We're talking about agents of a regime that has an active espionage operation against the U.S. that includes members of the WASP network convicted for trying to penetrate U.S. military installations, State Department officials who were turned into spies for the Cuban regime and compromised important U.S. foreign policy information, and an espionage network that included a former senior Defense Intelligence Official, who provided highly classified information to the Cuban regime about U.S. military activities, and whose spying may have caused the death of U.S. servicemen operating in Latin America.
"This is a regime responsible for the murder of three American citizens and a U.S. resident in 1996 in the Brothers to the Rescue Shootdown. So, it is incomprehensible--appalling--to see the Department of State facilitating access to our nation for these enemies of the U.S. From Washington, D.C. to San Francisco, Castro operatives want to travel to the U.S. and the State Department will grant them a visa.
"Just today, news reports confirm that State issued a visa to the daughter of dictator Raul Castro, Mariela Castro, to attend a conference in California next week. Mariela Castro is a communist regime sympathizer -- she is a part of the regime -- who has labeled Cuban dissidents as "despicable parasites.' There are also reports that Eusebio Leal, tasked by the regime to expand tourism to the island under the guise of serving as historian of Havana, is also being granted a visa to speak at the Brookings Institute tomorrow, Friday.
"Just a few weeks ago, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, a senior official from the regime's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose husband was expelled from the U.S. for espionage activities, was also given a warm welcome by the Department of State. This disturbing pattern that is developing where the doors of the U.S. are opened to officials and activists of this state-sponsor of terrorism countries must not be allowed to continue.
"Three of our colleagues and I sent a letter to Secretary Clinton earlier today expressing our grave concerns that such a wonderful welcome had been given to these officials and affirming the intent and requirements in U.S. law that the Secretary of State and the Attorney General is supposed to enforce prohibitions on the granting of visas to Cuban regime or Cuban Community party officials, operatives or designees, that is the law. We are also faced with the possibility that State may seek to thwart Congressional oversight over decisions regarding travel by Cuban regime officials. State employees and officials have indicated they may stop honoring a long-standing agreement with me on behalf of the House Foreign Affairs Committee requiring notification of State actions concerning travel by Cuban regime officials.
"This agreement was established in 1997 and it was adopted in lieu of a legislative mandate I had included in funding legislation and was honored by successive Administrations. I strongly urge the Department of State to immediately reverse its course and consider the threats to our nation's security interests posed by the Cuban regime and that will be discussed right now by Congressman Mack's Subcommittee. The Administration must stop bending over backwards to accommodate the needs, whims, and requests of this state sponsor of terrorism that, again, is located just 90 miles from U.S. shores."