Florida Republicans Slam Biden’s New Cuba Policies

This week, the Biden administration announced “a series of measures to increase support for the Cuban people in line with our national security interests” which drew fire from Republicans in the Florida delegation.

Insisting that “the Cuban people are confronting an unprecedented humanitarian crisis — and our policy will continue to focus on empowering the Cuban people to help them create a future free from repression and economic suffering,” the U.S. State Department announced steps to “facilitate family reunification by reinstating the Cuban Family Reunification Parole (CFRP) Program and continuing to increase capacity for consular services.”

The Biden administration will increase visa processing and expand counselor services and air travel. The State Department also announced efforts to “ensure that remittances flow more freely to the Cuban people while not enriching those who perpetrate human rights abuses” including ending “the current limit on family remittances of $1,000 per quarter per sender-receiver pair and will authorize donative (i.e., non-family) remittances, which will support independent Cuban entrepreneurs.”

Ned Price, a spokesman for the State Department, weighed in on the new policies, which break with those established during the Trump presidency, on Monday.

“The administration’s policy towards Cuba continues to focus first and foremost on support for the Cuban people, including their human rights and their political and economic well-being,” said Price. “Today, the administration announced measures to further support the Cuban people, providing them additional tools to pursue a life free from Cuban government oppression and to seek greater economic opportunities.

“We will reinstate the Cuban Family Reunification Parole (CFRP) Program and further increase consular services and visa processing, making it possible for more Cubans to join their families in the United States via regular migration channels,” he added. “We will make it easier for families to visit their relatives in Cuba and for authorized U.S. travelers to engage with the Cuban people, attend meetings, and conduct research.

“We will encourage the growth of Cuba’s private sector by supporting greater access to U.S. Internet services, applications, and e-commerce platforms. We will support new avenues for electronic payments and for U.S. business activities with independent Cuban entrepreneurs, including through increased access to microfinance and training,” Price continued. “We also will support Cuban families and entrepreneurs by enabling increased remittance flows to the Cuban people in ways that do not enrich human rights abusers. We will lift the family remittance cap of $1,000 per quarter and will support donative remittances to Cuban entrepreneurs, both with the goal of further empowering families to support each other and for entrepreneurs to expand their businesses.

“With these actions, we aim to support Cubans’ aspirations for freedom and for greater economic opportunities so that they can lead successful lives at home. We continue to call on the Cuban government to immediately release political prisoners, to respect the Cuban people’s fundamental freedoms and to allow the Cuban people to determine their own futures,” Price said in conclusion.

Congressional Republicans, including U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rick Scott, R-Fla., and U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., Carlos Giménez, R-Fla., and Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., took aim at the new policies in a joint statement.

“During Cuba’s historic anti-regime protests last year, President Biden said ‘[t]he United States stands with the brave Cubans who have taken to the streets to oppose 62 years of repression under a communist regime.’ Yet today, while hundreds of activists remain unlawfully imprisoned, the White House is resurrecting President Obama’s failed policy of unilateral concessions to the Castro/Díaz-Canel criminal dictatorship,” the lawmakers said. “Rather than supporting their pleas for freedom by expanding democracy programming, broadcasting, global diplomacy, and sanctions against their oppressors, the Biden White House is rewarding the Western Hemisphere’s longest-ruling communist dictatorship with high-level talks, easing sanctions, increased travel, and access to U.S. financial institutions. Appeasing Cuba’s murderous regime does not comply with the statutory requirements in U.S. law and undercuts America’s support for Cuba’s democratic opposition,” they said.

“The Biden administration’s repeated appeasement to the Cuban dictatorship is a betrayal of America’s commitment to human rights and freedom, and to the longsuffering Cuban people who are struggling for a genuine democratic transition,” they added.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., threw his support behind the new policies.

“The Cuban communist regime continues to violently oppress peaceful protestors crying out for freedom and liberty, all while more and more Cubans attempt the dangerous journey to the United States to escape,” said Crist. “I am encouraged by the Biden administration’s announcement today, and it is my hope that this will improve the quality of life for everyday Cubans on the island, while giving Cuban-Americans the freedom to visit, support, and reunite with their families. I look forward to continuing to engage the administration, along with Cuban community leaders, to make sure that entrepreneurship dollars go to mamás y papás and not to companies run by the military establishment. If the Cuban people have alternatives to the communist regime for internet access and financial services, this could be a game-changer for freedom and democracy in Cuba. ¡Patria y vida! ¡Cuba será libre!”

Kevin Derby
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