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Opinion & Reviews

Sen. Rubio: Inviting Cuba to the Summit of the Americas would be an egregious mistake

Sen. Marco Rubio writes an exclusive column for ADN America to explain why the outlook for President Joe Biden’s Latin American policy just keeps getting worse

Senador Marco Rubio (izq) junto al presidente de El Salvador, Nayib Bukele (d)
Senador Marco Rubio (izq) junto al presidente de El Salvador, Nayib Bukele (d) | EFE/Oficina Senador Rubio

May 20, 2022 12:12pm

Updated: February 19, 2023 9:41am

On Monday, news broke that President Joe Biden would reverse existing measures by easing sanctions, expanding travel to and lifting financial restrictions on Cuba. This is nothing short of a recycled and misguided Obama policy of appeasement that will only help the Cuban regime’s communist party and its military-security conglomerate, GAESA. It directs U.S. policy to befriend the oppressors instead of supporting the oppressed. And now, President Biden may invite the Cuban regime to the Ninth Summit of the Americas, taking place this June in Los Angeles.

If the Cuban regime is to participate in the Summit of the Americas, it would be a departure from the charter of the Organization of American States, which recognizes “that representative democracy is indispensable for the stability, peace, and development of the region.”

Cuba’s communist regime has only doubled down on its repressive apparatus. On July 11, 2021, now known as 11J, the Cuban people erupted in peaceful protests against the Castro/Díaz-Canel dictatorship with cries of “Libertad” and “Patria y Vida.” The regime responded with a brutal crackdown. Prominent activists to this day remain jailed under deteriorating health conditions, including José Daniel Ferrer (the leader of Cuban opposition group UNPACU), Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, and rapper Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo (performer of this year’s Latin Grammy-winning song “Patria y Vida”). The People's Provincial Court of Havana issued sentences of up to 25 years in prison, on charges of sedition, to 32 Cubans, including minors, who peacefully demonstrated on 11J.

To make matters worse, the Cuban regime is now orchestrating “the largest and most punitive mass trials on the island since the early years of the revolution,” as it has just instituted a new, extreme criminal code to snuff out political dissent.

If the Cuban dictatorship is allowed to attend the Summit of the Americas, and if President Biden continues to lift sanctions on the regime and its military enablers, Díaz-Canel would receive a massive international PR boost and be able to strengthen his brutal hold on the Cuban people. That is not something Americans want to be complicit in.

Allowing despots to send representatives to the Summit of the Americas would also be a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans who are owed billions of dollars for uncompensated property claims and to the many who have risked their lives in search of freedom. And it would show our regional allies that the Biden Administration is willing to ignore human rights violators and dictators who undermine democracy and the rule of law.

We cannot treat communist dictators the same way we treat democratically elected leaders. If we do, we should not be surprised when our allies begin to question our credibility and how much U.S. support is really worth.

Finally, making concessions to authoritarians in our hemisphere only empowers dictators worldwide. The regimes in both Cuba and Venezuela have been staunch defenders of Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine. If the White House cozies up to them, we may see more countries in our own region turn a blind eye to Putin’s invasion. At a moment when anti-American influence is expanding internationally and making inroads into Latin America, we should use diplomatic efforts, increase internet access, and expand democracy promotion to prevent such an outcome.

I urge President Biden to not let history repeat itself by standing strong against our hemisphere’s brutal dictators.

Marco Rubio is a U.S. Senator representing the State of Florida