Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Senator Martinez Remarks on the Floor of the Senate

The passage below is the remarks of Senator Mel Martinez about the travel restrictions to Cuba and the case of Sgt. Carlos Lazo. Emphasis is mine. (The quote is from the Congressional Record of 6/29/2005, see page 35. I have posted the PDF of this issue of the Congressional Record to my server because I was having trouble linking directly to it)

Mr. MARTINEZ. Mr. President, I rise to speak against amendment No. 1059 which would attempt to change foreign policy toward Cuba in an appropriations bill, which I think procedurally, as well as substantively, is the wrong thing to do. I urge my fellow Senators to vote "no'' on this amendment.

The amendment would seek to unconditionally grant a concession to the repressive Castro regime. This is a government and a country that currently suppresses the human rights of its people. It has been on the list of states that assist terrorism, consistently right there with North Korea and other countries that are not particularly helpful to our global war on terror.

Aside from that, this policy of travel consists as one leg or one part of a more comprehensive travel policy toward Cuba that the United States put in place under the leadership of our President about a year and a half ago. It created some restrictions on travel. It limited travel even among Cuban families.

I know this community well. I know it is a policy that is largely supported by that community. I also would tell you that there is, in my own life, the knowledge that the denial of family reunification is something that for over 40 years the Cuban system has utilized as part of their endeavor in order to control people.

I had lived in this country for 4 years, and during those 4 years of separation from my mother and father--between the ages of 15 and 19--my family was not able to travel here to visit me. They were not allowed by the Cuban Government to at any point leave Cuba to visit.

The case of this brave soldier, whom I greatly respect and honor, Mr. Lazo, who has served his country bravely in Iraq, has been brought up. Let me say, specifically, on that case, this young man, who has sons in Cuba, wishes to go to Cuba to visit his sons. It is understandable. He has been there in the past 3 years. He wants to go again. His sons are 16 and 19.

We have asked Mr. Lazo if he would allow us to bring his children here so they could visit here. One of them has had some illness. Currently, he is not under medical care, but he has been recently. He could certainly seek medical care here when he came, under his father's auspices.

In addition to that, I believe it would be a nice thing for these children to have an opportunity to visit in a free society and a free country. That request, that offer, has been refused. For family reasons or other reasons, he doesn't care to pursue that. He wants to go there. I understand that. But I don't believe we can change the foreign policy of the United States to suit one individual situation.

I am sympathetic to family travel. I am sympathetic to humanitarian problems that may arise from time to time in people's families. I have lived those in my own family and my own life. However, I believe the policy of the United States, the law of the United States, ought to be followed and that it would be wrong for us in this instance at this time to change what is established foreign policy of our country, established in terms of our relationship with Cuba, simply to take care of this individual situation. I would like to think of how we might work on a humanitarian travel policy that might even include Cuba making concessions but that it would not be a unilateral concession to this tyrannical government.
We'll I'm a little less sympathetic than Martinez. That's why I'd make a crummy politician. I do not understand why he HAS TO GO TO CUBA. It's obvious that seeing his sons is secondary to lobbying the U.S. Congress. Even the congresspersons on his side say that the Cuban government would allow them to travel to the U.S., Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro said on the floor of the House on 6/30/2005 that "Even the Cuban government has said Sgt. Lazo's son can come here to visit his father." So what's the problem? If his son is so sick and it's so important that he see his son (who he never knew that he'd see again when abandoned Cuba in search of freedom) and the U.S. will grant him a visa and the Cuban government will allow him to come, why in the hell didn't he jump at the chance?


Robert said...

That's too bad, for so many reasons. Lazo could have used his position to rally around our common cause, which is of course to eliminate the bearded one.

Instead, he pits himself against others of his kind. The more I think of this, the more I'm convinced that Lazo's motivations are political and that he can't stand us "Miami Mafia" types.

Thanks Conductor.

gansibele said...

To say "who he never knew that he'd see again when abandoned Cuba in search of freedom" it's excessive. When he left Cuba the current restrictions weren't in place. Everybody in Cuba knows you can visit.

Maybe he doesn't want politicians telling him where he can see his sons? Maybe as the free citizen of a free country he doesn't want his freedom restricted? Maybe he actually wants to change a law he considers divissive and not just take the easy out? What a horrible person. What happens with the next guy, who may not be a war hero? Are the Diaz Balartses and the Mel Martinezes going to be falling all over themselves to get their familes visas too?

John McCain was offered to get out of jail earlier that other POVs but he refused. It's obvious he didn't care to come back to his family. Staying back in VietNam to prove some point was more important.

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

Apparently he knew wouldn't be able to see them in the first five years because that was the policy. So he was willing to go five years when he first got here.

If he's trying to make a political point, great. Bully for him. But then he shouldn't feed us that horseshit about wanting to "See his boys" boo hoo. He has the right make his point and I have the right to make mine. The media conveniently ommitted an important part of the story which would have helped people make an informed opinion on this guy. But since we know the media is so "unbiased" this must have been a simple mistake. If you're a reporter you're supposed to report ALL the facts. I stand by Senator Martinez on this one. Don't talk to me about McCain. His service was honorable, but as a politician he has sold out conservatism and his party to curry the favor of liberals and the media types that would never vote for him anyway. I guarantee you one thing, McCain doesn't get elected President or VP on a Republican ticket.

gansibele said...

The five years is only if you defect or leave ilegally. Rafters or people who come here with a visa (the ones who win "el bombo") or claimed by family, only need to wait one year. I don't know where he falls.

McCain was just an example. I'm actually afraid of him running, so his lack of support is good news.

BUT I do agree with you that the visa offers should have been reported. It does give a more complete picture. Instead of a victim, yes, he's somebody who decided to push for a political change. My point is that this doesn't make him a bad person or a bad father and doesn't rest merits to his case.

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

I never said that he was. But he's a political operative lobbying the government, as is his prerogative, but he's not simply a guy that wants to see his sons. And I think if most people (who were initially on his side because of his military service) knew had options beyond what was disclosed they would have recognized him as such. His question is moot because the amendments failed, and Bush would have vetoed the bill if they had passed but that's not what my posts were about. They were about the way the media handled this story. That's what happens when you depend on wire services instead of reporters. Everybody picks up the same bogus or biased story. AP and Reuters have a big influence on what Americans read and see. Why hasn't anyone looked at them as monopolies? Just kidding, I'm not a big anti-trust guy.

Robert said...


The whole point of this is that Lazo DOES want politicians to tell him that he can go to Cuba whenever he'd like. He's using his right as an American citizen to lobby Congress, and that's fine.

However, as Conductor has pointed out, the media is only telling us part of the story to gain sympathy for Lazo.