Progressives on Thursday denounced the Biden administration as the White House announced plans to hit Cuban officials with new targeted sanctions amid recent protests in the Caribbean country—going back on President Joe Biden's campaign promise to reverse his predecessor's Cuba policies and ignoring calls from the Democratic Party's left wing to lift the U.S. trade embargo on the island.
Biden reportedly announced his plans regarding Cuba policy in a Wednesday night call with Democratic Cuban-American activists who had been calling for aggressive action since protests erupted on the island earlier this month.
"Exactly how is this going to help my family in Cuba get access to food, vaccines, etc.?"
—Rebekah Entralgo Fernández, Inequality.org
Cubans have taken to the streets to protest over food and medicine shortages, which, as peace activist Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK and Latin American policy expert Leonardo Flores wrote Thursday, the U.S. has played a "critical role" in creating with the "brutal economic war" it's waged on Cuba for the last six decades.
While campaigning in 2020, Benjamin and Flores wrote, Biden criticized former President Donald Trump's 243 punishing sanctions that devastated Cuba's tourism and energy sectors, compounded by the coronavirus pandemic and travel shutdowns, and pledged to work to normalize relations as former President Barack Obama had.
"But now the administration appears to be torn between factions in the Democratic Party that want a tough stance on Cuba for electoral purposes in Florida and those pushing for re-engagement," wrote Benjamin and Flores.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who is Cuban-American, recently called on the administration to "send a clear message that violence and repression against peaceful protesters is not only condemnable but it can have actions against them," amid reports that hundreds of Cuban protesters have been detained.
Meanwhile, progressives including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have said the U.S. can best help the Cuban people by lifting the embargo which has cost the island's economy $130 billion since it was first imposed in the 1960s, according to a 2018 U.N. estimate. The progressives' position was backed by 184 countries in the most recent U.N. General Assembly vote on the matter and by global human rights groups including Amnesty International.
Democratic Cuban-American activists have been joined by Republicans including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in calling for aggressive action against the Cuban government.
"Exactly how is this going to help my family in Cuba get access to food, vaccines, etc.?" asked Rebekah Entralgo Fernández, managing editor of Inequality.org, regarding the president's decision to sanction Cuban officials.
"This seems like a move to placate Cuban-Americans who were frustrated with Biden's lack of immediate response rather than something that will directly help Cubans on the island," she added.
Entralgo Fernández was joined by several others on social media who condemned the White House's response.
"The 'most progressive president since FDR' won't end a genocidal blockade," tweeted Aída Chávez, Washington, D.C. correspondent for The Nation.
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams - Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community and was authored by Julia Conley.