The U.S. Catholic Bishops announced their support for the Biden Administration’s lifting of some restrictions on travel and economic activity between the United States and Cuba.
On May 16, the U.S. State Department announced that it will reverse rules put in place by the Trump Administration to renew certain restrictions on business and travel between the U.S. and Cuba. Those restrictions were loosened during the Obama Administration, in a move to normalize relations with the communist country.
The Biden Administration’s new measures would ease travel to Cuba for family members and “authorized U.S travelers,” lift barriers to business with Cuba’s private sector, and allow increased remittances to families and Cuban entrepreneurs.
Bishops support renewed engagement with Cuba
In a May 19 press release, Bishop David J. Malloy, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace voiced the bishops’ support for the move.
“We commend the Administration’s renewed interest in restarting U.S. engagement with Cuba. Recognizing that points of contention remain between our two countries, Cuba’s punitive isolation has not produced the economic and social change that the United States has sought to effect,” said Malloy.
“The expansion of travel opportunities for U.S. citizens, as well as the lifting of onerous remittance limitations, will strengthen familial, economic, and social ties between our countries. Cuba’s developing civil society and private sector depend on the leadership provided by active U.S. civil society engagement in Cuba.
“The U.S. bishops, including the Cuban-American bishops, in conjunction with the Holy See and the bishops of Cuba, continue to stress the vital importance of bilateral engagement and mutually beneficial trade relations between the United States and Cuba as the key to transformative change on the island,” he concluded.
Opposition from Cuban-American community
The loosening of restrictions on Cuba was not welcome news to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The son of Cuban refugees who fled the repressive Castro regime, Menendez was a vocal opponent of President Barack Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Citing the Cuban government’s brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters last summer in which over 800 were arrested and detained, Menendez argued against lifting sanctions.
“As the Diaz-Canel regime continues its ruthless persecution of countless Cubans from all walks of life for their participation in last year’s pro-democracy uprising, today’s announcement risks sending the wrong message to the wrong people, at the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons,” he said.
“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,” said Menendez.