By Merriam Ansara
Led by Representatives Jim McGovern (MA), Barbara Lee (CA), Bobby Rush (IL) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (NY), 114 members of Congress sent a letter to President Biden on December 16th. It calls on the president to advance a US policy towards Cuba that addresses humanitarian needs, the economic crisis, and encourages engagement on areas of mutual concern.
“The current humanitarian situation in Cuba is growing ever more dire, with shortages of food and goods and decreasing access to medical supplies amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge you to take immediate humanitarian actions – as the United Nations has urged repeatedly – to suspend U.S. regulations that prevent food, medicine, and other humanitarian assistance from reaching the Cuban people. We also support a more comprehensive shift to deepen engagement with Cuba and move towards normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations,” the letter reads.
By refusing to follow through on his own campaign promises to re-engage with Cuba, President Biden has so far continued Donald Trump’s policy of maximum pressure on the people of Cuba. Beginning to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba, an island nation just 90 miles from the United States, was a major foreign policy achievement for President Barack Obama. Continuing hesitation to return to these policies from the Biden Administration threatens that achievement and deprives the Cuban people of medicine and humanitarian goods.
The signatories of the congressional letter note that complicated licensing and end-use verification issues impede the ability to send or sell medical supplies to the island nation. Moreover, the Trump administration’s policy of restricting family remittances remains in place, preventing Cuban Americans from aiding their own families during the pandemic.
The signing representatives call for bilateral engagement on migration, the environment, law enforcement and health. They also note that communications and internet access increased as a direct result of the policy of engagement under the Obama-Biden administration.
This letter was advocated for by twenty-six organizations, including DC policy groups, faith based groups, humanitarian organizations, Cuban-American groups, solidarity groups, and political organizations.