House Republicans Press Biden to Get Tough on Cuba

Reps tell Biden not to lift terror designation for Castro regime

Cuban and American flags (Yamil Lage/AFP via Getty Images)
February 26, 2021

Congressional Republicans pressed President Joe Biden to get tough on Communist Cuba in a Friday letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Reps. Mark Green (R., Tenn.), Maria Elvira Salazar (R., Fla.), and August Pfluger (R., Texas) urged Biden to put additional pressure on Havana, citing the Cuban regime's human rights abuses and its support for terrorism and the dictatorship in Venezuela. Green said that the letter should serve to wake President Biden up to the threat Cuba poses to stability in the region if he returns to President Obama's "failed appeasement policies."

"The list of human rights violations by Cuba's communist regime is extensive and includes the suppression and torture of political dissidents without due process or adherence to the rule of law," Green told the Free Beacon. "Political dissidents are held in notoriously atrocious prison conditions, and the Cuban dictatorship has a history of exporting its oppressive system and undermining the region's democracies."

Rep. Pfluger told the Free Beacon that the Biden administration must move to protect democracy in Cuba.

"America is the beacon of freedom and democracy, and our foreign policy towards authoritarian regimes must hold them accountable for any and all human rights violations and oppressive actions," Pfluger said.

The Department of Defense did not return a request for comment on whether the Biden administration will revoke Cuba's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.

A State Department spokeswoman told the Free Beacon the Biden administration's Cuba policy "will be governed by two key principles."

"First, support for democracy and human rights will be at the core of our efforts through empowering the Cuban people to determine their own future," she said.  Second, Americans—especially Cuban-Americans—are the best ambassadors for freedom and prosperity in Cuba."

The Trump administration designated Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism in its final days, capping off a four-year effort to freeze the regime's key assets. A 2017 report noted that Cuba's tourist industry serves as a front for the Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group, the business wing of the Cuban military that is run by Raul Castro's son-in-law. The Trump administration blacklisted the enterprises group in December 2020.

The Republican representatives said that disrupting the flow of money to Cuba will be essential to freeing the Cuban people.

"Now more than ever, it is critical that the United States take the steps necessary to restrict the flow of U.S. dollars to the Cuban military, maintain designations that hold the regime accountable for human rights abuses and support for global terrorism, and continue support for democracy on the island," their letter reads. "The United States must always stand on the side of freedom and democracy."

Biden campaigned to the right of fellow Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) whom the president knocked for conciliatory policies toward Cuba on multiple occasions. The Trump agenda, however, proved more popular with some interested voters. Cuban Americans and other immigrants fleeing socialism in Latin America buoyed the Trump campaign to a victory in Florida as well as historic turnout for Republicans among voters of color.

Rep. Salazar, a South Florida native with Cuban roots, spoke to the Cuban community's growing concern that the Biden administration will not pursue a hard line against the communist regime.

"It's not the time for concessions to the very same regime that continues to jail, starve, murder and systematically oppress the people of Cuba," Salazar said. "It's time to support the brave men and women yearning for freedom within the island and it is my hope that this administration stands with the Cuban people and not the brutal tyranny that oppresses them."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comment from the State Department.