A group of Florida lawmakers are moving to block the Biden administration from removing Cuba from the federal government’s list of international sponsors of terrorism.

Florida Lawmakers Lead Effort To Block Biden From Removing Cuba From Terrorist List

A group of Florida lawmakers are moving to block the Biden administration from removing Cuba from the federal government’s list of international sponsors of terrorism.
Rep. María Elvira Salazar and Sen. Rick Scott

A group of Florida lawmakers are moving to block the Biden administration from removing Cuba from the federal government’s list of international sponsors of terrorism.

The State Department announced last week that a delegation of senior Biden administration officials would visit Havana this month for a “law enforcement dialogue.” The meeting was pitched as a discussion of topics of “bilateral interest” on international law enforcement, such as helping the U.S. bring “transnational” criminals to justice.

But based on the Biden administration’s track record, this meeting will surely have the opposite effect of its stated purpose.

In response to a question about having the meeting while Cuba remains on the terrorist list, State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters, “Engaging in these talks underscores our commitment to pursuing constructive discussions with the government of Cuba where appropriate to advance U.S. interests.”

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“Our belief is that establishing and increasing channels for law enforcement cooperation to better address transnational threats is not at the expense of the serious human rights concerns that we continue to have. And we’ve integrated these human rights concerns and protections into all of our interactions with the Cuban government.”

Yet some Florida lawmakers see such a meeting as an avenue to removing Cuba from the terrorism-sponsor list, which former President Donald Trump did just before leaving office.

Cuba has long complained about being on the list, despite a decades-long record of gun-running in Latin America and working with terrorist groups, such as Hamas, or other state sponsors of terrorism, like Iran.

On Friday, in response to the Biden administration’s initiative, Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott and GOP Rep. María Elvira Salazar of Miami were joined by other Florida lawmakers in introducing the Fighting Oppression until the Reign of Castro Ends, or FORCE, Act.

As Scott’s office noted in a statement, the bill prevents President Joe Biden from normalizing relations with the “illegitimate, communist Cuban regime unless freedom and democracy are restored on the island.”

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“Cuba has played a significant role in exploiting the United States by stoking instability across Latin America, supporting ruthless dictators like Nicolás Maduro and Daniel Ortega and driving mass migration that benefits the illegitimate regime and its evil allies in Communist China, Russia, and Iran for decades,” Scott said in a statement. “Sadly, the Obama-Biden appeasement policies have only made it worse, giving more power to the evil communist regime and funding the continued oppression, imprisonment and torture of hundreds of peaceful Cubans.”

“Removing Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List before it is truly a free and democratic nation would be a dangerous misstep and a play right into the hands of evil dictators—we cannot let it happen,” he added.

“The Biden administration needs to ditch its shameful and failed appeasement agenda that is threatening America’s national security and standing in the way of progress and stability for the Cuban people and stability in our hemisphere.”

In her own statement, Salazar added, “The totalitarian communist regime in Cuba is an ever-present national security threat to the United States. Aside from stealing the hopes and dreams of three generations of Cubans, the Castro regime continues to subsidize and provide financial and military support to bad actors across Latin America.”

She argued the FORCE Act would prevent the removal of Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism until the nation meets “the minimal requirements of a functional and free society.”

Salazar noted that the bill is important to the Cuban exile community in South Florida as well as people who have come to America from the countries Havana helps destabilize.

Florida GOP lawmakers who support the FORCE Act include Sen. Marco Rubio and Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart (FL-25), Carlos Giménez (FL-26), Neal Dunn, Kat Cammack, Michael Waltz, and John Rutherford.

Outside of Florida, the bill has backing from Reps. Nicole Malliotakis of New York, Alex Mooney of West Virginia, Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma, Michael McCaul of Texas, Ken Buck of Colorado, Burgess Owens of Utah, Darrell Issa of California, and Steve Womack of Arizona.

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