MSNBC anchors Stephanie Ruhle and Ali Velshi confronted former Florida Senator Mel Martinez over his support of President Trump’s intent to revise U.S. policy towards Cuba.
According to reports, Trump will announce new restrictions on travel to Cuba, after they were loosened by former President Barack Obama following decades of a travel embargo to the country.
Martinez, himself Cuban, joined MSNBC to argue that “these measured changes” to Obama’s Cuban policy “are probably headed in the right direction.”
He derided Obama’s policy “a one-sided affair,” and said to Velshi that he should not compare the human rights abuses of different countries, after the anchor pointed to the current administration’s inconsistent relationship with dictatorships.
“I understand sir, but you saw that President Trump was doing a sword dance with the Saudis,” Velshi shot back. “I’m not comparing human rights, I’m saying we celebrate with some people who are absolute human rights abusers, and then we get crazy about Cuba.”
“Because Cuba is a horrendous human rights abuser,” Martinez said.
“So is Saudi Arabia!” cried Velshi and Ruhle in unison.
“So is Iran, so is China,” Velshi said. “Turkey, Philippines,” Ruhle added.
“You can’t compare the geopolitical significance of China, or the opportunity for business in China, with those in Cuba,” Martinez responded.
Velshi argued that the geopolitical significance of Cuba is comparable to China, and Ruhle contended that blocking off the country hurts American business.
“Let me try to get a word in,” an exasperated Martinez said. “Take a deep breath,” he added, noting the level of hostility Cuba has shown towards the United States.
“Why doesn’t Cuba change? Why don’t they open they’re markets?” Martinez asked.
That’s when Velshi cut in, as Martinez pleaded “let me finish.”
“I want to let you finish, but you keep not answering the question,” Velshi said.
“You don’t apply that standard to Saudi Arabia, you don’t apply that standard to China, you don’t apply that standard to Russia, you don’t apply that standard to Turkey, you don’t apply that standard to anywhere else.”
Martinez said Cuba is different from those countries because of its proximity and historical connection to the United States.
“Just because Cuba is in closer proximity to the state of Florida does not make the relations between Cuba and the United States more important,” Ruhle contended. “As important as that relationship may be to some Americans, other Americans would make the same argument about other countries.”
Martinez went on to compare the important geopolitical significance of China and Turkey to that of Cuba, and slammed Cuba’s foreign policy as detrimental to U.S. interests.
[image via screengrab]
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