Menendez Statement on Changes in US-Cuba Foreign Policy

Menendez Statement on Changes in US-Cuba Foreign Policy


NEWARK, N.J.U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement in reaction to the Trump Administration’s announced change in the United States foreign policy towards Cuba:

“I have spent much of the last quarter-century proudly fighting for human rights, freedom and liberty for all here at home and across the globe.  The Cuban people deserve no less. 

“Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction to reverse an ill-advised and misguided Cuba policy that has failed to deliver on its promises, left the Cuban people worse off, and allowed American fugitives, like wanted terrorist and cop-killer Joanne Chesimard, to escape justice.  I have continued to press both the Obama and Trump Administrations for the return of Joanne Chesimard, and am pleased that the president today made her return—in clear and absolute terms, as I have insisted—contingent upon any further U.S. engagement in Cuba.

“Allowing the Castro regime, as the previous administration did, to steadily and unilaterally reintegrate into the global economy without firm commitments to improve conditions for the Cuban people only emboldened an oppressive dictatorship to tighten its stranglehold over its citizens.  By prioritizing short-term economic interests over long-term and enduring American values, it provided a miraculous lifeline to a weakened regime at a time when the United States held incredible leverage.  It was a wasted opportunity to achieve real and meaningful change on the island. 

“As I had feared then, the flood of American money into Cuba has only served one considerable purpose: fueling the Castro regime’s fire.  It has led to greater repression, more arrests of political dissidents, less freedom and diminished economic opportunity for its citizens.  The U.S. government should not be in the business of enriching a dictator at the expense of supporting democracy and basic human rights.

“The Trump Administration’s decision to reinstate tighter controls, to enforce standing law that I authored, and prevent American companies from making a quick buck by partnering with entities owned by the Castros and the Cuban military is a good first step.  However, given the regime‘s effective control of the organized tourism industry, continuing to permit American cruise ships and flights to the island still pumps economic lifeblood into the regime.  Those who romanticize present day Cuba and believe foreign investment will facilitate the country’s transition to democracy, willfully ignore the fact that it is the dictatorship—not the Cuban people—that benefits from their investment.  

“While I am encouraged by the Administration’s commitment to helping Cubans develop an independent civil society that upholds basic human rights, freedom of speech, a free press, free elections and economic opportunity for all, I will continue to push for the resources necessary to support the Cuban people in their efforts to advance these priorities. 

“If Cuba truly aspires to have a better relationship with the United States and economic viability through increased American engagement, it must first implement profound structural changes to create a free and open society and economy for its people, accompanied by political reform, and return to justice Joanne Chesimard and other American fugitives it continues to harbor.  Until then, American businesses will have to resist the urge to prop up the Castros’ dying regime at the expense of the Cuban people, and in spite of the family of slain New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster.”