Senator Marco Rubio criticized IRS for targeting conservative groups. (Photo/Getty Images )

Senator Rubio slams Cuba travel: “Cuba is not a zoo,” Senator Leahy fires back

Florida Senator Marco Rubio had harsh words for Americans who travel to Cuba.

“Cuba is not a zoo, where you get to pay for admission and watch people living in cages,” said the Senator.  “Cuba is not a field trip.”

Senator Rubio was speaking at a U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC luncheon, and spoke about the eased travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba.  The Cuban-American Senator says everyone understands going back to Cuba to see an ill or dying relative, but he denounced people who go frequently to the island.

Senator Rubio said he has people coming up to him telling him how beautiful Cuba is, but how sorry they feel for the people.  Rubio said the problem with these visits is “you just went to Cuba – you left thousands of dollars in the hands of a government that uses that money to control these people that you feel sorry for.”

Rubio also criticized U.S. Senators whom he says go to Cuba to have yearly meetings with government officials and then come back and tell him “we really have to figure out a way to change policy toward Cuba; what we have is a relic of the Cold War,” said Rubio, adding to applause that “we do have a relic – the relic is the Cuban government.”

Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on the State Department and Foreign Operations and who headed a bipartisan delegation to Cuba in February, fired back at the Senator’s comments.

“It has been obvious to any objective observer for a very long time that isolation has not worked,” said the Vermont Senator in a statement, “and it is demeaning for a great and powerful nation like ours, for instance, to forbid U.S. citizens from traveling where they want to travel.  It is in our national interest to take a fresh look at how to effectively address our differences with the Cuban government, such as the imprisonment of Alan Gross and many other matters.”

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