U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, whose parents emigrated from Cuba, took exception to President Joe Biden’s new policies toward the communist country.
Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the Biden administration was wrong to increase travel to Cuba, saying it “risks sending the wrong message to the wrong people, at the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons” while the Cuban dictatorship cracks down on those who engaged in pro-democracy demonstrations last year.
“To be clear, those who still believe that increasing travel will breed democracy in Cuba are simply in a state of denial,” Menendez said. “For decades, the world has been traveling to Cuba and nothing has changed. For years, the United States foolishly eased travel restrictions arguing millions of American dollars would bring about freedom and nothing changed.”
The State Department announcement, which also includes allowing Cuban emigrants to send more money to their families back home and new steps to reunify families in the U.S., rolling back some of former President Donald Trump’s Cuban policies.
The U.S. also will allow flights to cities other than Havana will also be lifted and will help Cuban entrepreneurs through access to U.S. online services, electronic payments, financing, and training.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the policies will “focus first and foremost on support for the Cuban people, including their human rights and their political and economic well-being.”
He said the measures would “further support the Cuban people, providing them additional tools to pursue a life free from Cuban government oppression and to seek greater economic opportunities.”
Menendez, a fellow Democrat, also was a leading critic of then-President Barack Obama’s 2015 decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba.
“For over 60 years, the tides of romanticism toward Cuba have come and gone, but they’ve always crashed hard against the rocks of reality,” Menendez said. He said the U.S. needed to ”make clear we will measure our success in freedom and human rights and not money and commerce.”