January 18, 2024

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Releases Statement on Removal from House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee Hearing

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-12) released the following statement after she was denied attendance at a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere hearing on Cuba policy by the Republican Chair, Representative María Elvira Salazar.

It is standard practice in Congress for members to be granted waivers to attend hearings for subcommittees they do not actively sit on. The denial of this waiver to Congresswoman Lee is unprecedented.

“Rep. Salazar’s censorship of my remarks today is yet another example of the extreme GOP suppressing freedom of speech and diversity of opinion. Whether it’s Cuba policy or a school textbook in Florida, Rep. Salazar’s home state, Republicans are going to extreme lengths to censor those they disagree with. Ironically, Rep. Salazar’s refusal to hear my opinion is a standard practice of authoritarian regimes. If we don’t push back against this silencing, we risk becoming governed by misinformation and wanna-be dictators like Trump—the death of our democracy.

“I want to thank my friend, Ranking Member Joaquin Castro, for inviting me to participate in this hearing and for advocating on my behalf today. I’d like to thank Rep. Wasserman Schultz for standing with me in solidarity. And lastly, I want to thank Rep. Greg Stanton for reading my remarks on my behalf.”

The Congresswoman’s intended remarks can be viewed below. A video of the incident can be viewed here.

House Foreign Affairs Committee

Western Hemisphere Subcommittee

January 18, 2024

Statement for the Record by

Hon. Barbara Lee of California

“I want to thank my friend, Ranking Member Joaquin Castro, for inviting me to participate in this hearing.  I am outraged that Chair Salazar has taken the unprecedented step of objecting to me participating in this discussion.  I have been working on United States policy toward Cuba for four decades, since I was a Staffer for the late, great Ron Dellums.  And I believe I have something valuable to contribute to this conversation.

“One thing that I hope we can all agree on here is that the United States should support the efforts of the Cuban people to build a peaceful and prosperous society, one that can meet the hopes and needs of the Cuban people.  We see the Cuban people organizing, in the political space, the cultural space and even the economic space. 

“The Cuban people want to build a freer society.  But United States policy is based on the idea that if we punish them just a little more, we will make them succeed. 

“We see the failure of this upside-down policy everywhere.  More Cubans are fleeing the island than ever before, adding to the humanitarian crisis.  Do we want really want to exacerbate a situation where life in Cuba is so unbearable that people will risks their lives to leave?  Do we want the best and brightest—the Cubans most likely to inspire change in Cuba—to flee?

“In Cuba today, we see a flowering of entrepreneurship unlike any we’ve seen before.  Cuban government officials themselves are nervous about this independent economic activity.  And so far, the response of too many people in Washington has been to try to make those entrepreneurs’ lives harder.  Does that makes any sense?

“After six decades of failure, it is long past time for the United States to try something different.  The Obama Administration’s effort to engage Cuba offered real hope that the Cuban people might have the chance to finally determine their own destiny, free from the meddling of either the US or Cuban governments.  While politicians in Washington and Havana continue their petty squabbles, it’s the Cuban people who are paying the price.  I hope this hearing can be the start of us all working together to create a smarter, more humane US policy towards Cuba.”