Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called on the US to lift what she called its “absurdly cruel” embargo of Cuba Thursday in her first formal statement responding to the ongoing protests that have rocked Havana’s Communist regime.
“We are seeing Cubans rise up and protest for their rights like never before,” Ocasio-Cortez began. “We stand in solidarity with them, and we condemn the anti-democratic actions led by [Cuban] President [Miguel] Diaz-Canel. The suppression of the media, speech and protest are all gross violations of civil rights.”
The “Squad” member went on to call the embargo “the US contribution to Cuban suffering,” adding that it “is absurdly cruel and, like too many other US policies targeting Latin Americans, the cruelty is the point. 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 every day [sic] people.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s call to lift the embargo, which has been in place since 1962, echoed that of socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who tweeted earlier this week that the embargo had “only hurt, not helped, the Cuban people.” In addition, the Black Lives Matter group denounced the embargo Wednesday as a “cruel and inhumane policy” that was “instituted with the explicit intention of destabilizing the country and undermining Cubans’ right to choose their own government.”
One former Democratic member of Congress took issue with Ocasio-Cortez’s statement.
“No. This is not correct,” tweeted Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who represented Florida in the House for a single term before losing her reelection bid last year. “It’s the failed policies of a communist regime that has violated human rights, imprisoned & killed dissidents. Cuban ppl -young & old- are risking their lives to rise up, we must listen to them.
“This is a matter of national security,” Mucarsel-Powell added. “The US must act.”
At a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Biden responded to a question about potentially lifting the embargo by saying: “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.”
The protests demanding the removal of Diaz-Canel and the end of the totalitarian system that has been in place since 1959 began Sunday and represent the most significant challenge to the Havana regime in nearly three decades. Diaz-Canel has blamed the US government and Cuban-Americans for stoking the unrest and has called on his supporters to fight back in the streets.
The Cuban government has confirmed the death of a 36-year-old man named Diubis Laurencio Tejeda. Miami-based América TeVé reported that officials have claimed that Tejeda had a criminal record in order to “tarnish his image.”
The outlet also reported that thousands more are either missing or have been detained since the demonstrations began.