Maryland faith, civil rights leaders to Cardin: Lift the Cuban embargo

Maryland faith, civil rights leaders to Cardin: Lift the Cuban embargo
Fecha de publicación: 
3 April 2024
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A coalition of Maryland civil rights, religious and political leaders is calling on outgoing Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) to use his clout as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) to end the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

In a letter to Cardin Tuesday, more than 100 groups and individuals made the case that U.S. sanctions on Cuba are a primary cause of dire humanitarian and economic conditions on the island.

“The US economic, commercial, and financial embargo of Cuba — referred to by some as a blockade for its effects on third parties — has been in place for over sixty years. In that time, its primary effect has been the mass suffering of the Cuban people,” they wrote.

The groups’ request comes as Cuba faces its most dire economic crisis since the end of the Cold War amid an array of U.S. sanctions, including designation in the State Sponsors of Terrorism list.

That designation has been especially controversial, as it excludes Cuba from a large swath of the international financial system, and makes it harder for third countries to trade with the island.

Cardin was seen as a key player in the Obama administration’s rapprochement strategy toward Cuba, though he has been sharply critical of the communist government’s human rights record.

The Maryland coalition behind the letter is calling on Cardin to use his influence on the topic as part of his Senate swan song.

“While US-Cuba policy is not in your hands alone, there is no doubt that the Chair of the SFRC holds unique influence, both to pass legislation and to influence executive action,” they wrote.

Like other pro-rapprochement groups, they also see a window of opportunity, as Cardin took over the SFRC role from Sen. Bob Menéndez (D-N.J.), a Cuba hardliner who was forced to step down as chairman amid corruption allegations and a slew of related federal indictments.

It’s Cardin’s second stint filling in for Menéndez — from 2015 to 2018, he replaced Menéndez as the top Democrat on the committee while the New Jersey senator fought off a separate corruption indictment ahead of his 2018 reelection.

This time, both Menéndez and Cardin are set to step down at the end of this term, though Menéndez has said he will consider running as an independent Democrat if he is able to shake off the federal indictments by the summer.

“For many years, Senator Bob Menendez wielded that power to obstruct any measure of relief for the Cuban people. However, following his indictment on bribery charges, you have assumed this powerful position, and the opportunities that come with it,” wrote the groups.

The window of opportunity is likely to close at the end of this Congress, as Democrats face an uphill battle to retain control of the Senate, and Republicans are, as a whole, more closely aligned on a policy of maximum pressure on Cuba.

The Maryland civil rights leaders did not defend the Cuban regime’s human rights record, nor its economic management, but wrote that the embargo, with its share of blame for misery on the island, should end.

“We hold a diversity of opinions on the government of Cuba and regarding the exact relationship that that our two countries should ultimately have. We also recognize that the challenges faced by the Cuban people are not attributable to the embargo alone,” they wrote.

“But, we are united in our opposition to measures that have, for over half a century, resulted in nothing but widespread suffering. As faith communities morally opposed to the use of economic warfare against our Cuban siblings; as diaspora groups concerned with the displacement of people from their homes; as humanitarians, scholars, activists, and defenders of human rights; we say unequivocally that it is time to end the embargo on Cuba.”

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