Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.
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(CNN) - Florida Senator Marco Rubio strongly condemned the Obama administration's shift in Cuban policy Wednesday, deeming it "a terrible arrangement for democracy and the Cuban people."
"Just think about what message does that send if you are a dissident on the island of Cuba. Imagine, for example, the "Ladies in White." This is a group of women who fight - every Sunday go to mass dressed in white and afterward march down the street in silent protest, sometimes not silent protest, for the tyrannical nature of this regime. They are summarily, systematically and regularly beaten, jailed. They're harassed during the week by the Cuban government. Imagine how they feel now to know that Barack Obama has fully embraced the Cuban government and would visit there, and as to further legitimize that," Rubio proposed to CNN's Jake Tapper. "What does that say for people who are fighting for freedom and liberty in Cuba and resisting the tyranny right now?"
The Republican Senator, who is of Cuban descent, added that the United States' "unilateral concessions," including normalizing diplomatic relations, is "a reconciliation of the Cuban government's legitimacy."
"That's a terrible arrangement for democracy and the Cuban people," Rubio proclaimed.
In addition to citing Cuba's human rights abuses against political dissidents, Rubio remarked the lack of repercussions for Cuba coordinating with North Korea's efforts to evade United Nations sanctions earlier this year. The Senator stressed the need for the U.S. to be "even more serious about imposing a cost on the Cuban government for being a tyranny," including imposing more crippling sanctions.
"The Cuban government last year helped North Korea try to evade U.N. sanctions. They had a ship that left Havana with a bunch of banned material that was seized during the Panama Canal. The Cubans were helping North Korea evade U.N. sanctions. The United States government did nothing about that," the Senator asserted.
"The purpose of the sanctions today, as opposed to back during the Cold War, is, it serves as leverage, so that you go to a Cuban government and you say, as the law already does, it's been codified. If you open up democratically, if you start to make real democratic progress in Cuba, the sanctions will go away. That's real leverage, especially with a successor government to the Castro one, when new leadership takes over, which won't be long from now. All of that is virtually gone now, for the most part."
For more of our interview with Sen. Marco Rubio, watch the video above.