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Mooney stresses opposition to Obama’s Cuba moves

Charleston Daily Mail

The same week he joined the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Alex Mooney — West Virginia’s lone Hispanic congressman — continued to stress his opposition to the president’s plan to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

Mooney, 43, said he thought President Barack Obama’s Dec. 17 announcement was the wrong approach.

“I don’t agree with Obama doing things unilaterally, which he has a tendency to do,” he said. “You don’t just go give folks that are your enemies benefits.”

Mooney said he would have liked to have seen assurances that the Cuban government was going to change the way it has treated its citizens.

“People (in Cuba) don’t have freedom of speech. They’re oppressed and that’s just not right.”

Cuban citizens should be awarded basic freedoms, including a free press and the right to vote and unless those assurances are given, the embargo should be continued, Mooney said.

He acknowledged that some people may have counter-arguments to his position, including the fact that the United States maintains a working relationship with countries like China, which jailed more journalists than other country in the world in 2014, despite the country’s often-repressive tactics.

But in the end, he said, “I don’t support what Obama’s doing. I support being tough on our enemies until they give freedom to the people. ”

Although he has never traveled to Cuba, Mooney’s perspective has, in part, been formed by his mother’s experiences. One of 14 siblings, Mooney’s mother Eulalia, who is known as Lala, escaped the island-country when she was 21 years old.

“She was in jail for seven weeks and was lucky to be embraced and able to flee here. She was very passionate about freeing Cuba,” Mooney said.

Mooney said his mother, who waited 28 years to make her first return trip to Cuba, sees both sides of the issue.

“We all want to help the Cuban people and that’s the goal — to help out the Cuban people and not prop up the regime.”

With 50 Cuban cousins, Mooney said he is proud of his Hispanic heritage but nonetheless remains steadfast in his position on the Cuban embargo.

“In the end I come down on the side that we just made them (Cuba) look like the hero and we didn’t get anything in return for us or for the people of Cuba who continue to be oppressed.”