— -- President Obama and his family arrived in Cuba Sunday for a two-and-a-half-day trip, and it didn’t take long for Republican critics to get busy.
Donald Trump noted almost immediately that Cuban President Raul Castro was not on the airport tarmac to greet the first family. The Republican front-runner tweeted Sunday that Castro greeted Pope Francis on his arrival in Cuba last month, adding that el presidente had “no respect” for Obama.
Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz said Obama’s trip is “injurious to [America’s] future as well as Cuba’s” and that the result of the trip will “not be liberalization but rather the institutionalization of the Communist dictatorship.”
Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to visit the island nation in almost 90 years.
But Cruz argued in an op-ed published in Politico Sunday that “Obama has chosen to legitimize the corrupt and oppressive Castro regime with his presence on the island.”
“Meanwhile, political prisoners languishing in dungeons across the island will hear this message: Nobody has your back. You’re alone with your tormentors,” Cruz wrote. “The world has forgotten about you. They will not be on TV, rubbing elbows with the Obamas or left-wing politicians like Nancy Pelosi. There will be no mojitos at the U.S. Embassy for them. Raul Castro denies their very existence.”
Cruz’s father was a Cuban political prisoner who fought against the Fulgencio Batista regime in the 1950s and immigrated to the United States.
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders praised President Obama’s decision, calling it “long overdue.”
“I applaud President Obama for making history by traveling to Cuba and moving relations between our two countries into a new era,” Sanders wrote in statement released Sunday. “I continue to stand by his calls for Congress to fully lift the failed embargo.”
The Vermont senator added, “fifty years of cold war is enough. It is time for Cuba and the United States to turn the page and normalize relations.”