In the News: María Elvira Salazar calls Joe Biden’s call to review Cuban remittance policy ‘very embarrassing’

Florida Politics
July 20, 2021

At a U.S. House hearing Tuesday, Republican Rep. María Elvira Salazar slammed news Joe Biden‘s administration is reviewing U.S. policy currently restricting remittances to Cuba.

Biden ran on allowing those remittances to resume. But Biden seemed to back off that view last week, citing the difficulty in ensuring money could reach the Cuban people without being intercepted by the government.

“It’s highly likely that the regime would confiscate those remittances or big chunks,” Biden argued.

On Monday, however, Biden directed his administration to review current U.S. policy and determine whether getting those remittances into Cuban citizens’ hands is possible. He is reviewing current policy after protests in Cuba against the communist regime, as the government is reportedly failing to meet basic needs of its citizens. The Biden administration is seeking to provide resources to struggling Cubans while ensuring those remittances aren’t seized by Cuban officials.

Former President Barack Obama had relaxed U.S. restrictions on remittances as he pulled back on several Cuban embargo policies. Biden served as Vice President under Obama during that time. Former President Donald Trump reversed course, clamping down on Cuba and declaring the nation a state sponsor of terrorism.

At a Tuesday hearing in the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Salazar spoke to Rosa María Payá Acevedo, whose father — well-known activist Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas — was killed in 2012. Salazar bashed Biden’s decision to consider resuming those remittance payments, arguing he should find other ways to assist Cuban protesters.

“After a week of silence, now the Biden administration is saying they are going to review the effect of the remittances,” Salazar said. “That is very embarrassing. It’s a slap in the face to you, to your father, to all the Cuban people and to us, the elected officials, who were not informed or consulted.”

Salazar said the Obama policy toward Cuba failed, and a similar effort by Biden would be a repeat.

“For two-and-a-half years, (Obama) gave the opportunity to the Cuban government to really join the international community,” Salazar said. “They spit on him, and that was lamentable.”

Salazar has been part of a push to ensure Cubans have internet access after Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel cut off the service after last week’s protests. She repeated those calls in Tuesday’s hearing, arguing the U.S. government should either enhance the internet signal from the U.S. Embassy or Guantanamo, or collaborate with technology companies to use balloons to provide internet access.

“The bare minimum the Biden administration could do is to connect the internet, because that way, the world will be able to know and see the truth, and they can communicate among themselves,” Salazar argued. “They will also know that they are not alone and that the United States is with them.”

The Cuban people broadcast protests to the world, engendering solidarity from numerous Florida politicians. After video showed police cracking down on protesters, the Cuban government shut off the internet and has since blamed the U.S. for stirring up the demonstrations.

In addition to setting up a “Remittance Working Group,” the Biden administration will also consider boosting its staff at the Embassy to further engage the Cuban government and advocate on behalf of peaceful protesters.