(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) says he's glad that American "hostage" Alan Gross has been released from a Cuban prison after five years, but he opposes the process by which his release was secured -- "because it puts a price on every American abroad."
"Governments now know that if they can take an American hostage, they can get very significant concessions from the United States."
As part of the deal to free Gross, the United States will release three Cuban spies: "They're not just benign Cuban spies," Rubio -- the son of Cuban exiles -- told Fox News on Wednesday. "These Cuban spies were involved in providing information to the Cuban government that led to the murder of U.S. citizens in the infamous shootdown of the Brothers to the Rescue aircraft back in 1996.
"These were airplanes that used to patrol the Straits of Cuba to find people on rafts and save their lives. The Cuban government shot them down over international waters and they did so largely based on information that at least one of these spies provided them. These spies will now get a hero's welcome in Cuba."
Rubio said he expects President Obama to press for normalized diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba when he speaks at noon on Wednesday. The president wants to engage in commerce and trade "with a dictatorship."
"My interest in Cuba has always been the furthering of democracy and freedom," Rubio said. "I think the people of Cuba have the right, if they are free, to choose any economic situation they want. Nothing the president is going to announce today is going to futher that goal.
"And it's ironic, that a week after we imposed sanctions on human rights violators in Venezuela, we are lifting sanctions on the government that has taught the Venezuelans how to commit these human rights violantions. It's absurd. And it's part of the long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this adminstration has established."
Rubio said legally, the president could increase the amount of money that Americans are allowed to send to Cuba and he could help U.S. telecommunications companies do business in Cuba.
"The problem I have is not those measures. The problem is that in return, the the Cubans have agreed to do things like release political prisoners and allow more Internet access on the Island. But they're creating no economic openings, there is no concessions on freedom of speech, no concessions on elections, no concessions on the freedom to have alternative political parties; no concessions on ever having elections or anything of that matter...and this notion that somehow being able to travel more to Cuba and send more money to Cuba and sell more consumer products in Cuba -- the idea that that is going to lead to some democratic openings is absurd, but it is par for the course with an administration that is constantly giving away unilateral concessions -- whether it's Iran or in this case, Cuba -- in exchange for nothing. And that's what's happening here."
Rubio said Obama's foreign policy is "at a minimum naive, and perhaps even truly, truly counterproductive to the future of democracy in the region."
He called Obama "the worst negotiator that we've had as president, since at least Jimmy Carter, and maybe in the modern history of this country."