National Security

Rubio: Cancel Meetings With Cuba Until Prisoners Released

Cuba has failed to release 53 political prisoners and has jailed more than a dozen more

Sen. Marco Rubio, (R.,Fla.) / AP

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) called on the White House to cancel upcoming diplomatic talks with Cuba until the Castro regime follows through on its agreement to release 53 political prisoners in a letter to President Obama on Tuesday.

"I urge you to cancel the travel of Administration officials to Cuba to further discuss the normalization of diplomatic relations at least until all 53 political prisoners, plus those arrested since your December 17th announcement, have been released," wrote Rubio.

The White House announced that it would seek to normalize relations with Cuba last month and said the Castro regime had agreed to free 53 political prisoners. But the release deal, which the Obama administration stressed was not a precondition for opening up relations with Cuba, has been shrouded in secrecy. The White House has not issued the names of the dissidents or said how many have been freed so far.

According to Rubio, the Obama administration has not yet shared the names of the prisoners with members of Congress.

"To date, no information has been provided about the political prisoners to be released—regarding their identities, conditions or whereabouts, even on a confidential basis, to members of Congress," wrote Rubio.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Monday that the prisoner release was not a "prerequisite" for the upcoming talks with Cuba later this month, and declined to comment on how many have been let out of prison.

The Castro regime released Alan Gross, a 65-year-old U.S. contractor who had been imprisoned for five years, in December in conjunction with the White House’s announcement that it would reopen relations with Cuba. Since then, the Cuban government has arrested over a dozen dissidents involved in a recent demonstration.

"As we have now seen in vivid detail, less than two weeks after your announcement, the arrests, arbitrary detentions, and use of violence and intimidation to stifle dissent continue," wrote Rubio.

"The late December detentions of more than a dozen artists and dissidents who were simply trying to highlight their concerns about the government … again shows the true nature of the regime that you have now decided to legitimize and enrich."

The senator called on the Obama administration to provide transparency on the prisoner release agreement.

"Almost three weeks after your Cuba announcement, there is absolutely no reason why any of these individuals should be in prison or the targets of repression—or for their identities, conditions and whereabouts to remain such closely held secrets."