Biden's move to lift financial restrictions on notorious dictatorship triggers backlash

Cuban American lawmakers lambasted the Biden administration after the U.S. Treasury announced it would be lifting some financial restrictions on Cuba.

Treasury officials said the adjustments are aimed at helping independent businesses and supporting “internet-based services to promote internet freedom in Cuba, support independent Cuban private-sector entrepreneurs, and expand access to certain financial services” for Cubans, who have been under dictatorial control since the 1959 revolution.

The Treasury’s revisions will enable private business owners in the Caribbean nation to establish stateside bank accounts that they can manage from Cuba. These changes will facilitate the processing of transactions between the two countries via the U.S. financial system.

Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., who was born in Havana, called the changes ill-advised and claimed any supposed free enterprise in a totalitarian system means slackening regulations which only help the regime.

In an interview with Fox News Digital, Gimenez called the move another step toward wrongheadedly opening up relations with the Cuban dictatorship, citing 60-plus years of “suppressing and oppressing its people.”

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“The Biden administration decides it’s a good time now to reward them by giving them access to the American banking system. The fact they would even think that there is such a thing as ‘free enterprise’ in Cuba is beyond the pale,” he said.

Gimenez, whose district’s edge lies 90 miles from Cuba, said it is definitive that anyone with a “private business” there is somehow tied to the government.

Gimenez also said the Treasury’s decision is helping the Cuban government at a time when it is in peril, remarking the adjustments “provide oxygen to the regime when we should be strangling the regime.”

He said the move is only the latest in a Democratic habit of trying to engender good feelings with the Cuban regime, pointing to how other lawmakers and former President Obama have traveled there and met with either the now-deceased Castros or current leader Miguel Diaz-Canel’s government.

“How in the world do you justify something like that? You just can’t unless you yourself are either a socialist or a communist,” he said, adding that he believes the only way to provide true freedom to the Cuban people is through regime change, which can only be obtained organically, by the Cuban people, and with the express backing of the U.S. government.

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“[Cuba] is our greatest enemy in our hemisphere. They are the cause of the cancer that’s spreading around South America. They are directly linked to Venezuela and Nicaragua. And they’re also allies of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea,” Gimenez said.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., characterized the Treasury’s move as a political maneuver sought by President Biden looking for gains on the foreign policy front.

“President Biden’s concessions to the Cuban regime, notorious for its oppression, are deeply troubling,” Rubio said in a statement.

Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., who represents Miami’s “Little Havana”, also criticized the Treasury Department, saying its announcement makes a “mockery of American law – considering no progress has been made toward freedom on the island and repression has intensified.”

In comments to Fox News Digital, Salazar added that she has been pressing the Biden administration for some time against their overtures toward opening U.S. banks to “independent Cuban business owners,” echoing claims the actions will only help Diaz-Canel.

Johana Tablada de la Torre, an official in Cuba’s American Affairs department, described the changes as “limited” and largely rendered ineffective by the continuing U.S. embargo, in comments to The Associated Press. She also said the Cuban government will not get in the way of the changes if they are truly meant to help the people of Cuba.

Fox News Digital also reached out to relevant Democrats on the matter but did not receive responses by press time.

The Treasury directed Fox News Digital to transcribed comments from senior administration officials.

One official said the administration understands the Cuban economy’s “dire straits.”

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“Against this backdrop, we have seen the Cuban Government grudgingly open space to a nascent, yet growing private sector.  While cuentapropistas – or self-employed proprietorships – have been legal for some years, in 2021 the Cuban government also legalized the creation of [moderate]-sized enterprises,” the official said.

The White House also responded to criticism with a National Security Council spokesperson telling Fox News Digital the regulations are a “critical tenet of the Biden Administration’s policy towards Cuba that advocates respect for human rights and support for the Cuban people.”

“It is ironic that some members of Congress would criticize U.S. policies that support the struggling entrepreneurs that are the best hope for bringing capitalism to Cuba,” the NSC spokesperson said, denying the regulations are concessions to Havana.

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