WASHINGTON, D.C. — Retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) delivered a blistering reproach from the Senate floor on Monday condemning the White House policy on Cuba.
“As someone who has observed the evolution of relations between the United States and Cuba for nearly 50 years, I find the situation between our two countries today bewildering, tragic, and frankly exasperating,” said the 81-year-old Senator.
Leahy said six decades of sanctions, isolation, and threats, had failed to achieve any strategic objective for the United States.
“This administration’s policy has been dictated by a tiny, vocal constituency in this country that has always opposed U.S. engagement with Cuba,” Leahy continued. “They’ve done this for decades but the policy, history has shown, is doomed to fail.”
Leahy decried missed timelines at the State Department, like a review of the Trump policy of designating Cuba as an official state sponsor of terror that Leahy said was promised six months ago.
“What happened to the review? What did it say?”
“The COVID pandemic provided an obvious opportunity between American and Cuban scientists,” said Leahy. “That opportunity, like so many others over the years, was squandered due to politics, distrust, and spite.”
Remittances to Cuba have been restricted by the Treasury Department under President Biden, another leftover policy from the Trump administration with which Leahy also took issue.
“Shouldn’t Cuban Americans have the right to decide for themselves whether to send their own money to their relatives, rather than having that decision dictated by the White House?” he asked. “Remember those remittances help Cubans become less dependent on the government.”
“The White House has repeatedly said that human rights are at the core of its policy toward Cuba,” Leahy added. “I have asked, but I have no idea what the Administration’s practical objectives are in Cuba, or how it proposes to achieve them.”
The Senator called on President Biden, his longtime colleague in the upper chamber, to change course on Cuba by reimplementing President Obama’s policies of loosening sanctions and strengthening bilateral dialogue.
“While we maintain an intricate web of unilateral sanctions that every nation in this hemisphere opposes, the Russians and Chinese are aggressively filling the vacuum as anyone who visits Cuba today can readily see,” noted Leahy, referring to the various trade agreements between the three countries and the recent infrastructure projects China has led on the island.
Since 1999, Leahy has traveled multiple times to Cuba with his wife Marcelle as part of multiple congressional delegations to the island.
“This administration has had ten months to demonstrate that continuing the failed Trump policy of trying to bludgeon the Cuban authorities into submission can produce positive results,” Leahy said. “Are we going to waste another year and another after that? I hope not, but that is what will happen if the White House does not change course and show the kind of thoughtful leadership on Cuba that we saw during the Obama Administration, and that was welcomed by a large majority of the American people.”
“This administration can do better. It needs to do better.”
Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports