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Cuban Americans move to try to influence Biden’s new U.S.-Cuba policy

MIAMI – Amid the anticipation of President Joe Biden’s new Cuba policy, a group that represents South Florida’s community of Cuban exiles met on Wednesday to discuss a proposal at the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora in Miami’s Coral Way.

Rep. Carlos Gimenez said the group is asking Biden not to lift U.S. sanctions or to normalize relations with the Communist island unless Cubans agree to free all of the political prisoners, restore civil rights and hold free and democratic elections.

“We need and we want, we demand a free Cuba,” Gimenez said.

The group is asking Biden’s administration to avoid mirroring former President Barack Obama’s policies and to keep Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. The Obama administration had removed Cuba from the list in 2015 and former President Donald Trump added the designation on Jan. 12.

Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez said he doesn’t think there is a need to reverse Trump’s policies, which he attributed to Cuba’s recent expansion of free enterprise. The original reforms started in 2010 under Obama.

“Those are policies that have created results, and I don’t see a reason why we should reverse those policies,” Suarez said adding the stance also affects Venezuela and Nicaragua. “We know that the quicker that Cuba becomes a democracy, the quicker that our hemisphere will become a democracy.”

In pre-recorded messages, Senators Bob Menendez, Marco Rubio, and Rick Scott, and Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar said Biden needs to prioritize human rights and avoid making any unilateral concessions.

“One of my highest priorities will be to restore the promotion of democracy and human rights as a central component of U.S. foreign policy,” Menendez said.

Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo and Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez were also in attendance. Pro-Democracy organizations the Inspire America Foundation and The Assembly of the Cuban Resistance helped to organize the event.

On Tuesday, the Cuba Study Group, a Washington-based advocacy organization, released a 32-page document that will be delivered to the White House, recommending “a renewed case” for engagement with Cuba while continuing to “highlight” Cuba’s democratic failings.

Andres Fanjul and Eduardo G. Mestre, of Evercore, are among the members of the Cuba Study Group’s board. The organization wants “greater economic and civic freedoms” on the island and Biden to negotiate “cooperation agreements and facilitate” private sector economic arrangements.

Related link: Cuba Study Group’s vision for U.S.-Cuba relations in the Biden era (32 pages)

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About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.