May 16, 2022

Chairman Menendez Statement on Changes to U.S.-Cuba Policy

WASHINGTON –  U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement on the Biden administration’s announcement of changes to U.S. policy towards Cuba:

“As the Diaz-Canel regime continues its ruthless persecution of countless Cubans from all walks of life for their participation in last year’s pro-democracy uprising, today’s announcement risks sending the wrong message to the wrong people, at the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons.

“I am dismayed to learn the Biden administration will begin authorizing group travel to Cuba through visits akin to tourism.  To be clear, those who still believe that increasing travel will breed democracy in Cuba are simply in a state of denial. For decades, the world has been traveling to Cuba and nothing has changed.  For years, the United States foolishly eased travel restrictions arguing millions of American dollars would bring about freedom and nothing changed. And as I warned then, the regime ultimately laughed off any promises of loosening its iron grip on the Cuban people and we ended up helping fund the machinery behind their continued oppression.

“In that vein, I have also been concerned to see the Department of Justice submit legal briefings in the last month that seem intent on undermining the implementation of U.S. law under the LIBERTAD Act. For decades, the Cuban regime has sought to profit off the properties it confiscated from thousands of Cubans and Cuban Americans. By weakening the legal liability for companies that partner with the Cuban regime to use these properties, it is increasingly likely that foreign companies will continue trafficking stolen properties without consequences.

“I am pleased, however, that the Biden administration will maintain the State Department’s Cuba Restricted List.  Just like we have seen in Putin’s Russia, the Díaz-Canel regime is also using his stranglehold on power to perpetuate the rise of a new class of oligarchs with ties to the Cuban military and the United States must take significant steps to push for the demilitarization of the Cuban economy. I also welcome news that the administration is restarting the Cuban Family Reunification Parole program, an overdue step to strengthen the ties between Cuban families on the island and in the United States.

“All the empty hope for change can’t hide the brutality of the declaration Che Guevara made before the United Nations in 1964: ‘we have executed people, we execute people now and we will continue executing people for as long as we deem necessary.’ No words better sum up the true nature of this regime. For over sixty years, the tides of romanticism toward Cuba have come and gone, but they’ve always crashed hard against the rocks of reality. Today is another reminder that we must ground our policy in that reality, reaffirm our nation’s indiscriminate commitment to fight for democracy from Kyiv to Havana, and make clear we will measure our success in freedom and human rights and not money and commerce.”

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Juan Pachon