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Rubio: Trump’s Cuba policy should ‘pave the way’ for democracy

CNN Wire

CNN Wire

WASHINGTON — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Sunday he is confident that President-elect Donald Trump will stake a hard line on Cuba, and in the wake of Fidel Castro’s death said efforts should focus on promoting democracy there.

“Our goal is the national security and national interests of the United States and, as part of that, to do everything possible through our foreign policy towards Cuba to incentivize and pave the way for the move toward democracy,” Rubio told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union”

Trump has previously said he would roll back efforts by President Barack Obama to normalize relations with the country, marked in part by the re-opening of the US embassy there. But Rubio — a staunch Obama critic on the issue — said any effort would have to be weighed against national security.

“If there’s a policy that helps that, it remains in place. And if it’s a policy that doesn’t, it’s removed. And that’s what I would encourage them to do. And I look forward to working with them on that,” he said.

But Trump’s own position has become a question because his public statements taking a hard line on Cuba appear to be at odds with his comments to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer earlier this year that he would like to open a hotel there.

Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump adviser, would not say Sunday whether Trump still planned to build a hotel there, and blasted back at Obama.

“We should not be romanticizing Fidel Castro, who was a ruthless dictator who imprisoned and tortured and had murdered many Cubans,” Conway told Bash in a separate interview. “What Trump is also saying is he just objects to the way we re-engaged diplomatic relations with Cuba in the last several years in this administration because we got nothing in return.”

Trump, Rubio and other Republicans also blasted Obama in the wake of Fidel Castro’s death Saturday, after the President issued a statement that declined to denounce Castro’s humanitarian abuses.

Rubio called Obama’s remarks “pathetic” but he declined to hit Pope Francis for also leaving Castro’s human rights violations out of his statement.

“Pope Francis is the leader of a religious organization, the Roman Catholic Church. Barack Obama is the president of the most powerful country in the world,” Rubio said. “As a practicing Catholic, I believe in the theological authority of the bishop of Rome. And that’s what Pope Francis is.”

He added: “On political matters, however, particularly on foreign policy issues, I don’t necessarily believe that that binds those of us in the faith in terms of issues of foreign policy. I still respect it, but this is a very different thing.”