National Grassroots Coalition on Cuba Policy Applauds 80-Member letter to Biden Urging Cuba Normalization

For Immediate Release
March 3, 2021

Contact:
Angelica Salazar (English), 415-259-9594/allianceforcuba@acere.org
Elena Freyre (Spanish), 786-683-8241/cubaid7@yahoo.com

National Grassroots Coalition on Cuba Policy Applauds 80-Member letter to Biden Urging Cuba Normalization

Advocates with the Alliance for Cuba Engagement and Respect (ACERE) say that constituent pressure can end the embargo under the Biden Administration

The Alliance for Cuba Engagement and Respect (ACERE) applauds the efforts of 80 members of the House of Representatives who called on President Biden to not delay executive action and to reverse the Trump administration’s cruel sanctions against Cuba. The letter notes that the Trump policies — implemented as the Cuban people faced acute shortages of food and medicine tied to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — can be reversed with “a stroke of the pen.” The letter also calls on Biden to seek an end to the six decades-long embargo — one of the largest groups of members of Congress to ever make that demand.  The letter was sent after the Biden administration announced an unprecedented review of the impact of U.S. sanctions policies on countries – including Cuba – as they battle the impact of COVID-19.

The newly-formed ACERE coalition was a driving force in creating grassroots support for the letter, organizing hundreds of emails and calls from constituents and advocates to their representatives.

“This strong show of support so early in the Biden administration shows that Congress will be a force for change in U.S. policy towards Cuba,” said Elena Freyre, a longtime Cuban-American advocate for ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba, with FORNORM and ACERE. “Broad sectors of U.S. society support normalization with Cuba, including Cuban-Americans, agricultural producers and the business community, and citizens across the political spectrum. With support from champions in Congress, we are confident that this can be the administration that finally brings the failed embargo policy to a close.”

“This letter is a sign of a sea change on Cuba policy in Congress, particularly given its support from all flanks of the Democratic Party and from a dozen influential members of House leadership, including Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Gregory Meeks and Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro,” said Erik Sperling, executive director of the advocacy group Just Foreign Policy, that helped to initiate the letter.

The letter names several immediate moves that the Biden administration can take to alleviate sanctions on Cuba imposed by Trump, such as removing caps on remittances by Cuban-Americans and restoring travel exemptions that allowed the people of the U.S. to visit Cuba for people-to-people exchanges.  The Congressmembers also urged the Biden administration to immediately retract the “politicized decision by the departing Trump Administration” to name Cuba as a state sponsor of terror — a baseless move that was widely condemned. Beyond that, the letter lays out how to rekindle the path towards normalization, including restarting high-level bilateral dialogue, re-staffing embassies, and renewing working groups that were formed during the Obama administration on a wide range of key shared interests.

The letter also highlights Cuba’s widely lauded medical missions to underserved countries, and urges the U.S. to restore medical cooperation with Cuba, citing as an example the Obama administration joint response to the Ebola crisis in Africa. The letter also urges an end to efforts to undermine Cuba’s medical missions and discourage impoverished countries from accepting assistance from Cuban doctors.

The letter concludes by insisting that these steps should be part of a process that seeks an end to the “harmful and extra-territorial ‘embargo’ (also called an ‘economic blockade’)”. It cites polls showing that the people of the U.S. support an end to the embargo, and highlights the “28 years of consecutive votes condemning [the embargo] by nearly all members of the U.N. General Assembly, including our allies.”

“We thank our congressional representatives for speaking up in this letter to President Biden urging him to act quickly, boldly and broadly to end the cruel and inhumane economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed on the Cuban people,” said Angélica Salazar, a Steering Committee member of ACERE. “We must remain ‘impatient’ and strong, as Rep. McGovern noted,  in maintaining our grassroots pressure on both the Biden administration and on Congress. ACERE and our alliance members are committed to helping end the U.S. embargo on Cuba in 2021. Our national movement is growing!”

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

Alliance on Cuba Engagement and Respect (ACERE) Statement on Trump Administration’s Adding Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terror 

 

We are outraged to see that the Trump Administration has once again added Cuba to the list of State Sponsors of Terror. This is a politicized move that has one goal: to place obstacles in the path of diplomatic engagement and normalization that the incoming administration has pledged to pursue. It is particularly shameful for the Trump Administration to make evidence-free accusations of terrorism against Cuba just days after a mob of their supporters, including dangerous far-right extremists, attacked our own Capitol. 

We are grateful that prominent members of the House and Senate have strongly condemned this move, including Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Gregory Meeks, the new Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. 

Cubans on the island and in the U.S. are the primary victims of moves by the Trump administration to reverse critical policies that promoted normalization of relations with Cuba and its people. Every time a presidential administration works to reinforce the embargo, the people of Cuba and their families in the U.S. suffer the inhumane consequences — made even worse now by the effects of the global pandemic.

The path forward with Cuba is one of engagement and normalization that works to heal the relationship between our two nations and Cubans on the island and here in the United States. Perpetuating the myth that Cuba is a threat to the US American people — while minimizing the threat posed by far-right extremists at home — is an embarrassment to our country on the world stage.. hypocritical. It is clear that the far-right in our own country poses a far greater threat to the United States than the people of Cuba. 

We call on the incoming Biden Administration to commit to an immediate reversal of this move and a return to the path of engagement and normalization.

The US blockade prohibiting humanitarian flights to Cuba affects the human rights of Cubans

PRESS RELEASE

Washington DC, Nov. 25, 2020.– ACERE, an alliance of organizations that seeks to create constructive policies by the United States towards Cuba, denounced the blocking of two charter flights that sought to transport medical supplies from Miami to Havana as a serious affront to international human rights.

The companies – Skyway Enterprises and IBC Airways – requested a formal permit for these flights to bring critical medical aid to the island, alluding to regulations that allow for medical cargo trips as an exception to the general prohibition. 

The U.S. State Department directly blocked the transport of several tons of medical aid this past week, as the planet faces a surge of cases related to COVID-19. The Trump administration banned private charter flights this past October as part of a series of cruel policies that have long been considered failed by all U.S. sectors and the international community, and constitute a further setback to the progress in bilateral relations made under the Obama administration.

ACERE urges President-Elect Joe Biden and his incoming administration to reinstate the policies of diplomatic, political and economic integration that were carried out under his own supervision as Vice President. This latest attack on the rights of U.S. citizens to travel and on the basic human rights of Cubans is particularly cruel in the middle of a global pandemic that has led to further multilateral collaboration, not less. 

Banning two flights with humanitarian and medical aid seriously affects the well-being of Cuban families, already hard hit by natural disasters, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the economic impact of closing their borders to prioritize public health and life. This latest round of sanctions only increases unnecessary suffering and further isolates the United States as a continuous outlier.