For Robert Menéndez, chair of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the cases of Cuba and Iran are sacrosanct. His hatred for the Cuban revolution and, therefore, the people whose ideas do not mirror his own, goes back a long way.
The Cuban American senator has been in the opposing corner for many years. This was the position he held during Barack Obama’s presidency, when it was raised in relation to various issues, such as the nuclear agreement with Iran and rapprochement with Cuba, according to the Politico newspaper.
As such, any improvement in relations between the United States and these two countries encounters problems with Menéndez.
His career is underscored by his agreement with conservative Cuban American groups in Florida on the topic of Cuba.
His inner circle even includes staff linked to groups that promoted terrorism against the island, according to media reports.
Several weeks into Democrat Joe Biden’s presidency, there has been no sign of movement from the White House towards Cuba. Everything is undergoing a process of “review”, as White House press secretary Jen Psaki said several weeks ago.
The delay, or “review”, referred to by Psaki perhaps has something to do with pressure from senator Menéndez. The Biden team is “right to want to have a good relationship with him. They’re going to agree with him on a lot of things,” said Ben Rhodes, who was a key force behind diplomatic openings with Cuba and Iran during the Obama years.
“But at a certain point, there’s a Senate view and an administration view, and unless you want [Menéndez] to be in charge of your Cuba policy, your Venezuela policy or your Iran policy, you’re likely going to reach a point where you have to have a difficult conversation,” stated Rhodes.
Is Robert Menéndez a stumbling block for Biden’s foreign policy? Yes, according to various sources, who consider the senator to be more committed to former president Donald Trump than the current administration.
Menéndez repeatedly demonstrated his opposition to the previous Democratic government’s foreign policy on Cuba, which he called “dramatic and mistaken” while ardently calling for the blockade to be tightened.
Some of this background is because, among his inner circle, the legislator blames Biden for legal proceedings, involving 18 charges of corruption, that were brought against him by the Department of Justice in 2017, during the Obama administration, some of which carried 15-year prison sentences.
According to Mexican newspaper La Jornada, the charges were supported by ample documentary evidence: emails, hotel bills, airline tickets and credit cards provided proof of the bribes received by the senator from Dr. Salomón Melgen.
However, a judge dismissed charges against Menéndez a year after Trump’s election, once Obama era officials were no longer in the Justice Department.
Melgen, a generous Menéndez donor, who in 2018 was sentenced to 17 years in prison, was included in Trump’s famous list of pardons.
Until the former president was elected, it was considered inevitable that the Cuban American senator would receive a similar sentence to Melgen, or at the very least that his political career would be over, according to an article by analyst Ángel Guerra in La Jornada. Menéndez is in Trump’s debt, and the ex-president will be able to count on him as a “mole” among the Democratic ranks, especially when Biden says he will develop a pragmatic policy that will return the United States to the prominent position it lost under Trump. (PL)