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Tom Emmer’s statement on President Trump’s Cuban policy is as disappointing as it is misguided. In the opening paragraph of Rep. Emmer’s statement, he said “I am extremely disappointed with President Trump’s announcement he is going to ‘roll back’ the progress made in improving our relationship with Cuba. Through today’s actions, his Administration claims that he is honoring a campaign promise and fighting for the Cuban people. Yet, by returning to the failed policy of the past 55 years, the Administration moves no closer to helping improve the human rights situation in Cuba and stands to violate the President’s number one campaign promise and constitutional responsibility- to keep the American people and our homeland safe.”

It’s disappointing to read Rep. Emmer’s statement. As long as one of the Castro brothers is the head of their repressive regime, human rights will be terrible. Period. While it’s likely true that the Obama Cuban policy helped the U.S. (and Minnesota) economically, I question whether it was a significant improvement. The underpinning of true human rights improvements is religious freedom. To that end, this report includes some troubling information:

On August 9, a few days before US Secretary of State John Kerry was to attend a ceremony to mark the opening of the US embassy in Havana, 90 people—including an estimated 50 Ladies in White—were arrested and detained after Sunday mass in the Havana neighborhood of Miramar during a peaceful march against political repression.

During the visit of Pope Francis in September, police detained some 100 to 150 dissidents to prevent them from seeing him. Miriam Leiva, a freelance journalist and blogger and a founder of the Ladies in White, was invited by the Papal Nuncio in Havana to greet the Pope twice, on September 19 and 20, but was detained for several hours each time, preventing her attendance.

Raul Castro’s oppression feels like Fidel Castro’s oppression. For all of Rep. Emmer’s talk about human rights, nothing has changed.

Here’s Emmer’s entire statement:

I am extremely disappointed with President Trump’s announcement he is going to ‘roll back’ the progress made in improving our relationship with Cuba. Through today’s actions, his Administration claims that he is honoring a campaign promise and fighting for the Cuban people. Yet, by returning to the failed policy of the past 55 years, the Administration moves no closer to helping improve the human rights situation in Cuba and stands to violate the President’s number one campaign promise and constitutional responsibility- to keep the American people and our homeland safe.

With today’s directive, the Administration is limiting our opportunities to improve the human rights and religious liberties of the Cuban people, not expanding them. This policy decision will hurt the United States economically, making it harder for our nation’s farmers to access new markets and cutting the knees out from under our travel and manufacturing industries. Perhaps most importantly, today’s announcement creates a very real security risk for the American people and our homeland by inviting foreign nations into our backyard to fill a void that today’s announcement is creating.

Today is not the end of this discussion; it is yet another chapter in a long and complex history between the United States and Cuba. My colleagues and I will continue to advocate for human rights and religious freedoms, a more secure hemisphere, and new economic opportunities for American farmers and businesses by improving our relationship with Cuba, not retreating.

The voices of our policy makers must represent the voices of the overwhelming majority of Americans who favor improving our relationship with Cuba. I hope as we go forward, the President will remember he was elected to challenge the status quo – not to be part of it.

We will be on the right side of history and lift this failed embargo.

I wouldn’t bet on congress lifting President Trump’s sanctions. That requires a two-thirds majority in the House and a two-thirds majority in the Senate. The odds of that happening are less than slim.

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