Biden should stand strong for a free Cuba and not restore failed appeasement policies | Opinion

Rick Scott
·3 min read

Cuban Americans in Florida and across the United States want to know: What is Joe Biden’s Cuba plan? Over the past four years, the United States has taken an unprecedented stand against murderous dictators and held oppressive regimes in Latin America and Cuba accountable for their threats to regional security and human-rights abuses. This month, the State Department took an important step by reinstating Cuba to the State Sponsors of Terrorism list — a step I have urged for years. Now, President-elect Biden must make clear that the United States will not return to appeasement policies that embolden the regime and hurt the Cuban people.

Removing Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list in 2015 was one of the Obama-Biden administration’s critical missteps for regional stability. Havana immediately extended its reach and expanded its control, giving power to other dictatorships in Latin America. Cuba continues to oppress its people and those across Latin America by supporting narco-states run by dictators like Nicolas Maduro and Daniel Ortega and harboring terrorist groups. Cuba actively aided the Maduro regime’s genocide in Venezuela, and, last year, the Cuba refused to extradite terrorists. This included 10 members of the National Liberation Army living in Havana, after they claimed responsibility for the bombing of the Bogotá Police Academy in 2019 that killed 22 people. This is a regime comfortable harboring terrorists.

If the Biden administration were to go backward and again remove Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, it would give a permission slip to the regime to continue supporting terrorists and murderous dictators in Latin America. We can’t allow this to happen. We already tried appeasement, and it did not work. It exacerbated the instability and the rise of dictatorships in Latin America. We must clearly show that the United States will not tolerate rogue nations that oppress their people and serve only to destabilize the region. If we want a fighting chance at eradicating terrorism in our hemisphere, Biden must stand strong and see the Cuba for what it is — a state that harbors terrorists.

Another Obama-Biden era mistake was weakening economic sanctions against Cuba. What their administration failed to understand is that businesses and industries are controlled, and often operated, by the regime. More than 70 percent of the labor force in Cuba is controlled by the state.

Easing economic sanctions and restoring the Obama-era policy of appeasing Havana would only line the pockets of Cuba’s communist cronies. Every dollar spent by American citizens in Cuba is a dollar that enriches the dictatorship and furthers its control and oppression of the Cuban people.

Biden has said on several occasions that he would “reverse the failed Trump policies that have inflicted harm on the Cuban people and done nothing to advance democracy and human rights.”

I ask Biden: Did Obama-era appeasements advance freedom in Cuba? What about freedom and human rights in Latin America? Clearly not. While these policies were in force, Sirley Ávila León, a dissident who spoke against the regime, had her hand severed by Cuban operatives. Today, the Cuban regime continues to persecute and jail dissidents. In Venezuela, Maduro continues to oppress and starve his people with Cuba’s support, and every day we see the increased presence of China, Russia and Iran in our hemisphere thanks to Cuba providing a gateway.

Returning to the policies that did nothing to advance democracy for the people of Cuba would be a mistake and an insult to the Cuban Americans who risked their lives and left their families fleeing from the regime. Biden must choose freedom over oppression, learn from the failures of past appeasement policies and stand strong for democracy in Latin America.

Weakness toward Cuba now will cost precious lives and critical ground in this important fight.

Rick Scott is a former Florida governor. He now represents the state in the U.S. Senate.