PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – After news that President Joe Biden’s administration was considering Cuban officials’ request last week for emergency aid after Hurricane Ian, Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar stood in opposition.
There were small protests in Cuba amid a countrywide blackout after Ian, as Unión Eléctrica had struggled even before the storm ravaged the island’s western provinces.
Cuban officials shunned U.S. aid after a hotel collapse in May and a fire at an oil storage facility in August. With Russia and China as allies, the request is highly unusual.
“Giving aid to a state sponsor of terrorism would be immoral and dangerous. We know any potential aid will not be used to help the Cuban people,” Salazar said Thursday in a statement.
The controversy in the U.S. about whether or not to send aid amid the 60-year-old Cuba trade embargo comes just as the November election approaches and there are tight races in South Florida.
Salazar, a Republican who represents Florida’s 27th congressional district, is running for re-election against State Senator Annette Taddeo, a Democrat who was recently endorsed by the former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
Taddeo, a businesswoman whose father was a kidnapping target of the Marxist-Leninist guerrilla in Colombia, and Salazar, a retired journalist whose parents had to flee Cuba, partially agree.
“We should not give oxygen to the Cuban regime, but we give it to organizations that are trusted, that we know it’s going to make it in the hands to help the people,” Taddeo said.
Biden hasn’t changed former President Donald Trump’s reinstatement of Cuba’s U.S. designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. But his administration reinstated talks on immigration.
Taddeo has criticized Salazar for remaining silent when Gov. Ron DeSantis flew migrants from Texas to Massachusetts. DeSantis, who is also running for re-election, suspended his campaign to respond to Ian’s deadly aftermath in western Florida.
Democrats were also critical of Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez’s support of DeSantis’ migrant flights and accused her of suggesting that undocumented Cubans be sent to Delaware, a state Biden represented for more than three decades in the U.S. Senate.
Núñez, a Cuban American from Miami, addressed the criticism on Americano Media, a conservative, Spanish-language talk radio station, and made a distinction between Cubans who are in the U.S. “for political reasons” and those for “economic ones.”
The People’s Forum, a socialist New York-based organization advocating for the “working class and marginalized communities,” published a full-page ad in Sunday’s New York Times asking Biden to allow U.S. aid to flow freely to Cuba.
Interactive map: Ian’s aftermath in Cuba
Interactive graphic: Increase in Cuban migration
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Oct. 2, 2022 episode
Torres contributed to this report from Miami.