House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) criticized the Obama administration for normalizing relations with Cuba for the purpose of "collecting headlines" rather than encouraging democracy.
While Secretary of State John Kerry cheered the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba Friday, Boehner insisted that the celebration will do nothing to bring "real change" to President Raul Castro’s regime.
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"Once again, the Obama administration’s fixation on collecting headlines by embracing and granting unilateral concessions to pariah states has not delivered real change in their behavior or improvement in the lives of their citizens," the Ohio lawmaker said in a statement.
"Opening the door to an embassy in Cuba will not open the door to democracy for the Cuban people," Boehner added.
Kerry delivered a speech during the flag-raising ceremony at the diplomatic post in Cuba’s capital of Havana, labeling it a "truly historic moment … symbolizing the restoration of diplomatic relations." Friday marked the first instance in 54 years that the American flag has flown above the embassy.
"While the United States has re-hung its ‘open for business’ sign in Havana, the Cuban dictatorship is continuing its business as usual," Boehner said.
Obama has been widely criticized by Republican lawmakers–including GOP presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), the son of Cuban immigrants–and even some Democrats for normalizing relations with the country despite its repressive regime.
"Instead of embracing democracy and changing their oppressive behavior, the Castro regime has countered with a list of expensive demands and continued to deny basic freedoms to its own people," Boehner declared Friday.
In addition to opening the diplomatic facility in Havana, Obama has also eased travel and business restrictions on Cuba.