GOP lawmaker “would have raised hell” if he’d known Bush gave visa to Castro’s daughter
By STEPHEN KEPPEL
Former Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart said he “would have raised hell” if he had known that President George W. Bush had granted a visa to Raul Castro’s daughter, Mariela Castro.
Diaz-Balart claimed that he and other Cuban-American lawmakers did not know of the Bush administration’s decision to grant Mariela Castro permission to visit the U.S. a decade ago until it was reported this week.
“This is the first time we found out that she had come before,” the ex-Florida congressman told Univision News after appearing on Al Punto with Jorge Ramos.
Diaz-Balart’s comments come amid astaunch political backlash against the Obama administration’s decision to grant Mariela Castro a visa. Republicans have used the visa as a political cudgel against the president and some Florida Democrats have also criticized the visa.
But Obama’s allies have looked to disarm the controversy by pointing to the fact Mariela Castro visited the United States three times under Obama’s Republican predecessor. U.S. State Department spokesman William Ostick told the Miami Herald that Mariela Castro visited once in 2001 and twice in 2002.
Castro, a sex education official and gay-rights activist, traveled to the U.S. this week to attend the 30th Conference of the Latin American Studies Association in San Francisco. She also is scheduled to speak on a panel about sexual diversity and politics at the New York Public Library.
Diaz-Balart argued that Castro’s latest visit is worse than any she took under Bush because Cuba is currently holding a U.S. citizen, Alan Gross, in prison.
“If there has ever been a bad time to grant a visa to high officials of the dictatorship it’s while they are holding an American hostage,” he said.
Castro, an active member of Cuba’s Communist Party, added further discomfort by publicly endorsing Obama in the aftermath of his decision to back same-sex marriage.