Three prominent members of Congress, all of Cuban descent, spoke out against the State Department on Thursday for its decision to grant a visa to Mariela Castro Espin, daughter of Cuban dictator Raul Castro, and herself a member of the Cuban dictatorship.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) called the decision “outrageous and an enormous mistake,” while Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said the move “sends the wrong message to the [Cuban] regime and to Cuba’s struggling opposition movement.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who was born in Havana and now chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the decision is “beyond comprehension.”
As Scribe reported on Tuesday, Castro Espin is scheduled to speak at a San Francisco conference held by the Latin American Studies Association. State would not discuss the visa application, but a LASA spokesman confirmed that she would be at the conference in person, and hence would need a visa to enter the country.
But per Presidential Proclamation 5377, issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, agents of the Cuban dictatorship are prohibitied from obtaining U.S. visas expcept in very specific circumstances – Castro Espin’s scheduled visit would not be covered – or where State specifically grants an exemption. For Castro Espin to enter the country, then, State would have to waive that proclamation’s prohibitions.
Castro Espin is the director of Cuba’s state-funded National Center for Sex Education, a division of the Ministry of Public Health. She has also been a vociferous critic of the Cuban dissident movement.
Rubio called Castro Espin “an arm of [Castro's] regime” who “is coming to the United States to spread their anti-American propaganda. It is shameful that they would grant that visa.”
Ros-Lehtinen noted that the decision may also violate a “long-standing agreement” between Congress and the federal government. According to her news release, State agreed to share information with her committee on the travel of Cuban government officials. It offered no such information on Castro Espin’s visa application.
While he singled out State, Menendez also extended his criticism to LASA itself. “Neither the United States Government nor the Latin American Studies Association should be in the business of providing a totalitarian regime, like the one in Cuba, with a platform from which to espouse its twisted rhetoric,” Menendez stated.
The Heritage Foundation will work to highlight the Cuban regime’s continued repression of political dissidents and lack of respect for basic human rights at a Friday event honoring the fifth annual Solidarity Day with Cuba.