Cuban lawmakers from both parties supported on Wednesday a petition to the Biden administration not to soften the policy toward Cuba if there are no advances toward freedom and democracy in that country and to take into account the opinion of Cuban-Americans.
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and Republicans Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, as well as Congressmen Carlos Gimenez, Mario Diaz Balart and Maria Elvira Salazar and several South Florida mayors endorsed a statement to that effect by exile leaders and members of the Cuban-American community.
“U.S. policy toward Cuba is not the creation of a party or a President, it is and should be guided by the principles set forth in the Cuban Democratic Act and the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act,” said the statement signed by some thirty prominent Cuban-Americans.
In the opinion of Cubans
The initiative came from the Inspire America Foundation, which seeks to promote freedom in Cuba and has no political affiliation.
Its president, attorney Marcell Felipe, said today that President Joe Biden’s Administration “has gotten off to a good start” with regard to the island and thanked him for saying that Cuban Americans will count when it comes to deciding what policy to apply to the island’s Communist regime.
He also noted some of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s harsh comments regarding human rights in Cuba.
Felipe hosted an event at the Cuban Diaspora Museum in Miami, which was attended by many of the signatories of the declaration and some of the elected officials who support it, such as Republican Congressman Carlos Gimenez, former mayor of Miami and close to former President Donald Trump.
Giménez summarized what, in his opinion, the Cuban government should do to change the heavy-handed policy of the United States: release of all political prisoners, restoration of civil rights for “all Cubans” and free and democratic elections.
In the statement, the Biden Administration is asked not to remove Cuba from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism, a last-minute decision by the Trump Administration, to renew support for the Cuban opposition and to disburse funds for Radio and TV Martí to use internet technologies so that its broadcasts can reach Cuba without interference.
Mentions and praises for the policy of economic sanctions and pressure applied by Trump were frequent during the event, in which there were numerous speakers, the vast majority of them Republicans.
Policy towards Cuba
Cuban-born Democrat Senator Bob Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stressed that from that important post he will strive to make the promotion of democracy and respect for human rights an essential component of U.S. foreign policy, something he said Biden shares.
This “absolutely includes Cuba policy,” he said in Spanish in a videoconference message.
Menendez stressed that the Cuban regime “has found new tools to undermine democratic values” and mentioned that in the last two years it has enacted decrees 349 and 370 that “further restrict freedom of speech and press in Cuba.”
The Democratic senator made a reference to the San Isidro Movement of “brave” artists and activists who are peacefully protesting against those decrees by pointing out that the Cuban dictatorship cut off the Internet last November 26th throughout the country to “silence the news of the protests”.
In Menendez’s opinion, the protests have reaffirmed what “we all know: that the Cuban people want their voices to be heard, demand respect for their human rights and want to live in a society based on tolerance, free expression and democracy.”
Praise for Donald Trump
Another Democrat who spoke at the event, the mayor of Coral Gables, Raúl Valdés-Fauli, surprised by asking Biden in a video to maintain the “policy of the previous president” (Trump) towards Cuba.
A policy that, according to the mayor of the city of Miami, Francis Suarez, has had remarkable results and gave as an example that the Cuban regime has had to recognize 200 categories of free enterprise jobs because otherwise the country’s economy would collapse.
Suarez said that the sooner freedom comes to Cuba, the sooner it will come to countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Republican Senators Scott and Rubio addressed those present at the Diaspora Museum by videoconference, something that was also done at the end by some members of the San Isidro Movement and the internal opposition in Cuba.
Scott, former governor of Florida, praised the economic sanctions imposed by Trump on a regime that has been characterized by its “atrocities” for more than 60 years and asked not to lower the guard and fight every day “for a new dawn.”
Rubio, of Cuban origin, said that U.S. policy toward Cuba not only affects Cubans but has “serious implications for national security and stability in the region.”
Throughout the event there were fleeting allusions to Barack Obama’s policy of normalization of relations with Cuba and the lack of demands made on Cuba in return.
The most direct allusion came from former Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, who said that the Democratic President promised that everything would go well in Cuba after the thaw, but “nothing went well.”