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DeSantis, House GOP Leader McCarthy pressure Biden to do more for Cuba

Republicans meet with South Floridians from a group of Latin American countries

A visit to South Florida was aimed at pressuring the Biden administration into stronger action against the Cuban government. There were also clear political reasons for the show of force in Hialeah Gardens on Thursday.
A visit to South Florida was aimed at pressuring the Biden administration into stronger action against the Cuban government. There were also clear political reasons for the show of force in Hialeah Gardens on Thursday.

HIALEAH GARDENS, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said Thursday that they “will not back down” as they push for democracy and freedom in Cuba and throughout Latin America.

They spoke at a news conference in Hialeah Gardens after meeting with South Floridians from several Latin American countries earlier Thursday morning.

Their message was aimed at ratcheting up pressure on President Joe Biden to proactively help the Cuban people.

“Mr. President, we’ve requested a meeting. Why? Because if you can’t come up with ideas, we have them,” Rep. McCarthy said. “We can tell you the solutions. We will stand with you if you will act.”

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Others who spoke at the news conference included Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez and U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Carlos Gimenez and Maria Salazar of South Florida. House Foreign Affairs Ranking Member Mike McCaul (Texas) and fellow U.S. Reps. Mark Green (Tennessee) and Victoria Spartz (Indiana) also participated.

Earlier Thursday, the group met with members of the Cuban, Colombian, Venezuelan, Nicaraguan and Peruvian communities in South Florida to voice support for democracy in Latin America.

“DeSantis said what he has always said. He’s with the side of the Cuban people,” said Ninoska Perez, who attended the roundtable discussion at Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine in Doral. “He supports the Cuban-American community, and we’re really happy that he’s the governor of Florida.”

Perez was also impressed with McCarthy’s visit, saying: “It’s extraordinary that the leader of the Republican majority would come to Miami and see for himself what this community is all about.”

It comes in the wake of widespread protests in Cuba last month that also sparked demonstrations here in South Florida.

Thousands took to the streets of Cuba to protest shortages of food and medicine, restrictions on civil liberty, and the communist-run government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gimenez, the former Miami-Dade County mayor, said he wants President Joe Biden to declare the Cuban government illegitimate because of its actions to punish protesters.

Republican members of Congress are also pushing for the Biden administration to deliver internet to the island.

“If there’s one message that we’re waiting for the Biden administration to do something about it, I have said it many times, we need two things: leadership and connectivity. I’m talking about internet,” Salazar said in an interview between the roundtable and the news conference.

Asked how specifically the Biden administration help restore internet in Cuba, Salazar said: “Well, the Biden administration can give the green light to those companies who have the technology to put up the balloons or whatever it is, satellite. We’re not talking — I’m not talking about technology. I’m talking about political willingness.”

Salazar later said that the news conference that “patience is running out” for what they see as Biden’s half-hearted efforts to support Cuban dissidents.

Biden has called Cuba a “failed state.” He drummed up support from 20 nations for dissidents, set up a commission to study remittances, and has promised to look into restoring Cubans’ internet access.

While the show of force by Republicans is part of an ongoing campaign to put pressure on the Biden administration, the Democrats are in fact also taking a hard line against the Cuban government.

But the GOP has had a louder voice — and more passion.

“Let the world see what is going on,” McCarthy said.

There’s also a purely political angle to this call for action in Cuba. The three Cuban-American members of Congress from South Florida are all up for re-election next year.

A group of Republican leaders met with members of the Cuban, Colombian, Venezuelan, Nicaraguan and Peruvian communities in South Florida on Thursday to voice support for democracy in Latin America.
A group of Republican leaders met with members of the Cuban, Colombian, Venezuelan, Nicaraguan and Peruvian communities in South Florida on Thursday to voice support for democracy in Latin America.

About the Authors:

Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." He is Local 10's senior political reporter. 

Madeleine Wright is a general assignment reporter for Local 10 News. She joined the team in March 2017.