Washington, D.C. – The Tampa Bay Times reports this evening that two, top staff members for Senator Marco Rubio (FL) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27) took junkets to China that were financed by China’s government. The paper identified them as Sally Canfield, deputy chief of staff to Rubio, and Arthur Estopinan, chief of staff to Ros-Lehtinen.
In a statement released this evening, Sarah Stephens, executive director of the Center for Democracy in Americas, called the report “stunning.”
“It is stunning that Senator Rubio and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, who fiercely criticize travelers to Cuba because it puts money into the pockets of what they call ‘the Castro regime,’ allowed their staffs to accept travel junkets to China paid out of the pockets of China’s government.
“This is an astonishing double-standard practiced by both legislators. Why specifically do they think travel to Cuba is different from travel to China?
“Senator Rubio called the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its president Tom Donahue ‘misguided’ for traveling to Cuba, because ‘the U.S. should not make it easier for the Castro regime to enrich itself and fund its repression with American dollars’.
“Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, who condemned the Obama administration for its family travel and people-to-people travel reforms, criticized the Smithsonian which hosted legal trips to Cuba, saying ‘It is deeply disappointing that the Smithsonian [Institution], primarily funded by American taxpayers, is facilitating access to U.S. dollars, which enables the Castro regime to make a hefty profit.’
“We need to end all the double-standards. End restrictions on the right of Americans to visit the countries of their choice. End restrictions on the right of Americans to visit Cuba based on their backgrounds. Most of all, stop the lectures from legislators who place tight limits on Americans who wish to see Cuba, while allowing their staffs to accept travel junkets to China paid by its government.”
(From the Cuba Central Newsblast)