As Cuban-Americans and others came out on the streets of Miami on July 31 to oppose the over 60-year United States embargo against Cuba, Senator Marco Rubio decided to revive one of the ugliest and most condemned moments of U.S. history when he chose to engage in McCarthyist tactics and launch a campaign against U.S. citizens demanding diplomacy and engagement with Cuba, instead of continuing a failed policy of isolation and punishment.
Rather than acknowledging the political pluralism within the Cuban-American community and the profound debates across the country about U.S. policy towards Cuba, Senator Rubio asked the FBI to investigate the organization Puentes de Amor (Bridges of Love) for supposedly acting as an unauthorized agent of the Cuban government and trying to interfere in U.S. political processes. This overt attempt to intimidate and harass one of the most effective movements to promote peaceful dialogue and diplomacy with Cuba is shameful, baseless and a threat to all who disagree with our government’s policies designed to provoke hunger, economic desperation and a constant humanitarian crisis for the Cuban people.
Senator Rubio’s comments are nothing but smear attacks lodged against those who disagree with his views and policies. The main target of Senator Rubio’s persecution campaign is Iraq war veteran Carlos Lazo, founder of Puentes de Amor. Lazo is accused of coordinating protests with the Cuban government against US-imposed sanctions, simply because Mr. Lazo was welcomed in Havana by President Miguel Diaz-Canel. He has been trying, so far unsuccessfully, to get a similar meeting with President Biden. Lazo – who is a U.S. citizen – calls his country of birth, Cuba, his motherland and the United States, his country of adoption, his fatherland.
For years Lazo has led or been a part of movements opposed to the embargo and imposition of U.S. sanctions. Based on Sen. Rubio’s definition, any citizen or entity that disagrees with U.S. foreign policy and organizes against it is considered a threat to the nation. The fact that a U.S. Senator would engage in such shameful, baseless and immoral tactics to target and silence citizens who speak out in favor of peace and reject the politics of conflict and war should be of concern to us all.
Mr. Lazo, a war veteran and teacher in Seattle, has shown extraordinary commitment to the cause of peace between the U.S. and Cuba. During the height of the pandemic, he biked coast-to-coast from his home state of Washington to Washington D.C. to call attention to the dire conditions in Cuba caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and to call on President Biden to honor his electoral promises of returning to a détente with Havana. He also led a walk by Puentes de Amor from Miami to Washington D.C. in 2021 to denounce the harmful effects of the U.S. embargo on Cuba and the Cuban people, in the middle of one of the worst economic and humanitarian crises in years. Former Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) noted that Mr. Lazo is a decorated war veteran who is profoundly affected by the misguided and cruel policies of his government – the United States – which prevented him from seeing his children and family in Cuba. Since July 2020, Puentes de Amor has inspired monthly caravans that have been taking place in cities across the country, calling for the normalization of relations. With all of these actions, Mr. Lazo has obtained tens of thousands of supporters among the Cuban-American community and the broader U.S. public.
Senator Rubio’s defamation and scare campaign is an attempt to obscure a larger truth, which is that Mr. Lazo and Puentes de Amor are successfully challenging bipartisan policies led by the current and previous administrations that are ineffective, cruel, and out of sync with what the majority of U.S. citizens support when it comes to U.S. policy towards Cuba.
ACERE calls on elected officials, constituents and those who find Senator Rubio’s abuse of power condemnable to demand that he immediately cease his smear campaign and intimidation of Mr. Lazo and Puentes de Amor. For those interested in joining the next monthly caravan in a nearby city to denounce the U.S. embargo and support engagement with Cuba, visit Puentes de Amor Facebook page.