March 04, 2021

Lee, Rush, Cohen, Moore, 75 Democratic Colleagues Urge President Biden To Reverse Trump Administration's Cruel Policy Towards Cuba

Washington, D.C. —U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), and Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) led a group of 75 Democratic Members of Congress in sending a letter to President Biden urging him to take swift executive action to reverse the Trump Administration’s draconian policies towards Cuba, return to the diplomatic path charted by the Obama–Biden Administration, and pursue an ultimate end to the nearly six-decade-long economic embargo.

The letter emphasizes the urgency of sanctions relief as Cubans are facing acute shortages of food and medicine tied to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it comes as the Biden administration conducts an unprecedented review of the impact of U.S. sanctions regimes on the COVID-19 response of targeted countries such as Cuba.

The letter identifies immediate steps that the Biden Administration can take to reverse Trump’s unilateral executive orders on Cuba, including removing caps on family remittances by Cuban-Americans and restoring travel exemptions that allowed Americans to visit Cuba for people-to-people exchanges.

“By signing a single order, you have the power to revert these regulations back to their status on the final day of the Obama–Biden Administration.  We respectfully urge you to do so without delay,” the Representatives wrote.

The letter also calls on the Biden Administration to promptly rescind the “politicized decision by the departing Trump Administration” to designate Cuba as a state sponsor of terror, writing that “Cuba was removed from the list [by the Obama Administration] in 2015 after an exhaustive review by experts at the State Department and in the Intelligence Community, and the Trump Administration did not cite any new facts to justify their decision." 

Additionally, the letter calls for more comprehensive effort towards engagement and normalization, including “restarting diplomatic engagement directly with the Cuban government, both at senior levels as well as through the re-staffing of each country’s respective embassies,” as well as restoring dialogue on “key areas of mutual interest that were pursued by the Obama–Biden Administration” such as “bilateral groups on migration, disaster response, environment, and law enforcement issues such as counter-narcotics and money laundering.”

As the Biden Administration works to restore the U.S. role in global pandemic cooperation, the letter urges a particular focus on medical cooperation between the U.S. and Cuba, citing as a model the Obama-era cooperation between the two countries to respond to the Ebola outbreak.  The letter also calls on the Biden Administration to “end the policy of pressuring other countries to reject health care cooperation with Cuba, particularly in the middle of a pandemic, as Cuba’s foreign medical missions often provide assistance in countries and regions that often face inadequate healthcare services.”

“These initial steps,” the Representatives wrote, “should be part of an ongoing process that seeks an ultimate end to the harmful and extra-territorial ‘embargo,’” citing polls showing that a majority of people in the United States oppose the embargo and noting the “28 years of consecutive votes condemning [the embargo] by nearly all members of the U.N. General Assembly, including our allies.”

The broad range of signatories — from progressive to moderates, senior to first-term Members — demonstrates the wide consensus within the House Democratic Caucus for urgent and meaningful change in U.S. policy towards Cuba. 

The full text of the letter and list of signers can be found here.