Biden must act, not speak, on Cuba

Now McGovern is among lawmakers losing patience with Biden, who, as a presidential candidate, has vowed to immediately roll back the Trump-era crackdown on travel and trade with the island nation, but as a that president has not yet acted.

And now the stakes are particularly high, with protests unprecedented in history – and the Cuban regime’s crackdown on protesters – reaching a climax. Cuban protesters last week denounced the devastating effects of the country’s economic crisis and the collapse of its once world-renowned health system as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage. With dangerously scarce food and medicine, rising inflation, and collapsing infrastructure causing power outages, Trump’s still-existing policies are blocking humanitarian efforts to send supplies and even the ability of Cuban-Americans to send. funds to their families.

“I don’t know what a hold-up is. I really don’t, ”McGovern said. “This is not a direct aid to the Cuban government. It is about enabling people to provide their families with additional funds to put food on the table. “

McGovern is right. Biden must, at a minimum, act now to reverse the previous administration’s restrictions, which were imposed to punish the brutal Cuban government regime but served to harm the Cuban people – and indeed, provided a ready-made excuse to the Cuban government. scheme to explain its own failures.

This is a first step in what should be a broader political priority of this White House and Congress to reverse the embargo and related restrictive policies on trade, travel and immigration, which remain. also detrimental to Cuban citizens and their efforts to demand freedom from repression as they have been ineffective in stopping human rights violations under the reign of the Castro brothers, and now President Miguel Díaz-Canel.

But as the protests continue, as Cuban Americans in Miami and elsewhere take to the streets in solidarity, the White House has issued only words of encouragement.

“The Cuban people courageously claim fundamental and universal rights,” Biden said in a statement Monday. “These rights, including the right to demonstrate peacefully and the right to freely determine their own future, must be respected. The United States calls on the Cuban regime to listen to its people and meet their needs at this vital time rather than get rich. “

Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Tuesday that Biden’s statement was intended to reiterate “that the United States stands firmly on the side of the Cuban people as they assert their universal rights.”

These are fine sentiments, but they’re not enough for McGovern and the dozens of other lawmakers who signed a letter in March urging Biden to act now to lift the executive order’s restrictions and end the embargo.

“It’s frustrating to see the reaction of not only the usual suspects, but even the Biden administration in response to this, with this, ‘Oh, we support the Cuban people; our hearts go out to the Cuban people, ”said McGovern. “Well, if you want to help the Cuban people, you might want to start by alleviating their suffering by overturning the restrictions of the Trump era.”

Yes, Cuba presents a perilous landscape for Biden, both from a foreign policy perspective and from a political perspective. Those on the opposing sides of the Cuban political divide in Washington and beyond have only sunk deeper into the back and forths of Obama and Trump. And Biden is surely aware of his failure to win Florida in the 2020 election and knows any move will have repercussions in 2024.

Republicans have criticized what they see as Biden’s failure to adequately support Cuban protesters, while standing ready to pounce on any move Biden may make to return to normalization of relations and present it as a gift to the Cuban communist leaders.

And Democrats are not united on the issue either. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is the highest ranking Latin American and Cuban American in Congress, says effectively defying the regime means leaving the embargo in place.

But Biden has already picked a job, dating back at least to when he made that phone call to McGovern in 2014 and throughout his 2020 presidential campaign. He has used a lot of words. Now is the time to act.

Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us on Twitter at @GlobeOpinion.

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