The Lies of Senator Rubio, And Why They Matter

Marco Rubio, Parents, Emigration, Exiles

Late Friday afternoon, Senator Marco Rubio revised the biography that appears on his office website.  He had no choice.  Throughout his political career, he has deceived Floridians, adoring Republican audiences and donors, journalists, fellow officeholders and others by claiming that his parents fled the Cuba of Fidel Castro.  This is a lie exposed by hard journalism in the Washington Post.

Every Cuban American knows the precise time and purpose of his family’s departure from Cuba.  The idea that Rubio never knew the facts until this moment – and that no family member ever bothered to correct the error before now –is absurd. While Rubio’s parents, Mario and Oriales, did adopt the anti-Castro position of many exiles who are opposed to the communist course taken by the Cuban revolution, the date of their emigration was not 1959 and the cause of their departure was not the current Cuban government.   They left Cuba in 1956 as exiles from a tyrannical regime; that of Fulgencio Batista Zaldivar, the right-wing dictatorship that Fidel Castro overthrew.

What Mario and Oriales Rubio did was human, but not an act of political defiance against Castro. The Cuba they left was not the worst country in Latin America, but inequality and poverty along with the corrupt and murderous dictatorship, caused thousands of countrymen to actively resist or flee into exile.  By revising the date and reason for his parents’ emigration, Rubio ingratiated himself with the dominant Cuban exile factions and placed his political narrative into a Reaganesque storyline about freedom.

But the significance of this story goes far beyond resume-padding; it has shined a spotlight on the senator's lack of moral character.  Rubio is not a responsible politician who deals with history in all its complexity. On the contrary, in full awareness of his parents' past, Rubio chose to lie, adapting himself to the simplistic mantras of the conflict, taking advantage of the dominant propaganda in Miami, and exploiting the trauma experienced by some of his constituents.

The tributes paid by Rubio to the thugs who toppled the second Cuban republic on March 10, 1952 are totally undeserved, and he knows it. Rubio knows, due to the experience of his own parents, that when he supported dedicating the new FIU law school building to Rafael Diaz-Balart he was paying homage to one of the politicians who brought an end to representative democracy in Cuba, one of those truly responsible for the flight of his parents.

The revelation of Marco Rubio's lie calls into question the central premise of the founding of the anti-Castro exile "community". The senator has repeated that the 1959 revolution was an "accident of history" while knowing, from his own family history, that this is false. It is the view that suits the anti-Castro element in which Batista supporters, who have obtained key positions of power in the U.S., have been exonerated of their crimes on the island. To say that Cuba in 1958 was a democracy, on its way to development, is a lie that has been repeated a thousand times in hopes of transforming it into the truth. The first exiles who fled to the U.S. in January 1959 were officers and supporters of a corrupt and criminal dictatorial regime.

The way that Rubio has treated his own biography should give pause to those Americans who contemplate elevating him to higher positions.  Of course, a Cuban politician of his generation cannot be indifferent to the disasters and abuses of the Castro government. However, denying partial responsibility for the Cuban national conflict and constructing simplistic narratives are typically tactics of demagogues, not of nation unifiers and crisis solvers. The group Rubio represents claims ownership of all that belonged to them in Cuba except their responsibility as the political class that facilitated Fidel Castro's triumph and consolidation of power for fifty years.

The Florida Senator speaks out both sides of his mouth, presenting himself as the Latino hope of the Republican Party, but refusing to clearly address the central issues concerning Hispanics in the United States.  Within the Cuban-American community, using the false history of his parents, Rubio has avoided a debate with those who criticize his position in favor of partially repealing the Cuban Adjustment Act and his support for imposing restrictions on family travel to the island, thereby reversing the popular policies of President Obama that liberated such travel.

Offering one pretext after another, Rubio has not appeared in the Hispanic media to explain in simple Spanish his opposition to the Dream Act, a law that would allow access to a university education for thousands of children of undocumented immigrants who have entered or have remained in the US as his parents, simple emigrants, did. Nor has explained how he intends to solve the problem of unemployment, which hits minorities especially hard, while he consistently votes against all of President Obama's efforts on the matter. This is a problem of character.

The Washington Post has revealed what would have been old news if Miami journalists didn't grovel every day before the entrenched power of the Cuban-American right. In Florida, and especially in Miami, Rubio has twisted the truth for decades without anyone questioning him. Perhaps Marco Rubio has not understood the one absolute truth that he repeats: the United States is an exceptional country. Here there is a press with the freedom and willingness to question the lies of dishonest politicians. As President Lincoln said, "You can't fool all of the people all of the time."

Dawn Gable contributed to this piece.