Democratic New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has echoed a recent statement issued by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) racial justice movement, calling for the U.S. to end its “absurdly cruel” embargo against the island nation of Cuba.
However, in a Thursday press conference, Democratic President Joe Biden seemingly signaled that the embargo will continue as the U.S. continues to monitor citizen protests on the island.
Ocasio-Cortez’s statement expressed solidarity with Cuban people who have been protesting repressive actions by their government amid nationwide food and medicine shortages.
“We stand in solidarity with them, and we condemn the anti-democratic actions led by President Díaz-Canel,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote in a statement. “The suppression of the media, speech and protest are all gross violations of civil rights.”
“We also must name the U.S. contribution to Cuban suffering: our sixty-year-old embargo,” her statement continued. She noted that last month, the United Nations General Assembly voted once again to condemn the U.S. embargo against Cuba. The U.N. has condemned the embargo every year since 1992.
“The embargo is absurdly cruel and, like too many other U.S. policies targeting Latin Americans, the cruelty is the point,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “I outright reject the Biden administration’s defense of the embargo. It is never acceptable for us to use cruelty as a point of leverage against everyday people.”
Her statement echoed sentiments expressed in a statement posted on BLM’s Instagram page late Wednesday. The racial justice organization said: “Black Lives Matter condemns the U.S. federal government’s inhumane treatment of Cubans, and urges it to immediately lift the economic embargo.”
BLM’s statement described the embargo as a “cruel and inhumane policy” and blamed it as being at the core of Cuba’s current crisis. BLM also said the embargo was instated with “the explicit intention of destabilizing the country and undermining Cubans’ right to choose their own government.”
However, in a Thursday press conference, Biden offered no indication of any willingness to end the embargo. He referred to Cuba as a “failed state,” calling communism “a universally failed system.”
“Cuba is, unfortunately, a failed state and repressing their citizens,” Biden said. “There are a number of things that we would consider doing to help the people of Cuba, but it would require a different circumstance or a guarantee that they would not be taken advantage of by the government.”
He said he would like U.S. citizens to be able to send remittances back to Cuba with the guarantee that the government “regime” wouldn’t “confiscate those remittances or big chunks of it.” He also said that the U.S. is considering its options to restore internet access to the island, amid reports that the government had shut it down.
The U.S. embargo against Cuba began in 1962 as a way to pressure the country to forsake its Communist government. The current embargo prohibits the export of all U.S. products to Cuba, with exceptions made for sending food and medical supplies under certain rules. Current U.S. policy also forbids companies that do business within Cuba from operating within the United States.
Thousands of Cubans are currently protesting their government as the coronavirus pandemic has contributed to food shortages and the worst economic crisis the country has had in 30 years. The protests, occurring in 45 cities across the island nation, are the largest to have occurred there since 1994, The Hill reported.
The Cuban government has blamed the U.S. embargo for the country’s food shortages. However, Cuba’s food troubles and financial woes have been worsened by the lack of tourism during the pandemic. The government’s financial policies and lack of a hard currency, meaning one that doesn’t change too much in value, has also played a role, according to The Economist.
During his time in office, former President Barack Obama softened long-held U.S. sanctions against Cuba. Obama restored diplomatic ties and expanded travel and trade between the two countries. However, Obama’s successor, former President Donald Trump, reversed Obama’s policies, returning to a hardline stance against Cuba. Biden has yet to change Trump’s policies.
Newsweek contacted Ocasio-Cortez’s office for comment.
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