Florida’s Crist urges Biden to provide direct federal aid to Cuban people
Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), the leading Democratic contender for the 2022 gubernatorial race, on Friday called on the Biden administration to send humanitarian aid directly to the Cuban people.
Crist also called on the administration to blockade foreign weapons shipments to the island, particularly from Russia and Venezuela, and to push diplomatically for U.S. allies to support Cubans protesting against their government.
Crist said in a statement that he made the requests “in order to support the Cuban people during their historic push for freedom.”
Crist is the top contender in the Democratic primary race to attempt to unseat Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in 2022, in what is certain to be an expensive race with national exposure.
Crist previously served as the state’s Republican governor from 2007 to 2011, before becoming a Democrat in 2012.
Cuba is facing its largest mass popular movement in decades as protesters throughout the country take to the streets demanding better living conditions.
The island’s Communist government, led by President Miguel Díaz-Canel, responded to the protests with intermittent violence as well as arrests of protesters and other opposition figures, including some who did not participate directly in the protests.
Díaz-Canel also restricted internet access and social media platforms, limiting the information coming out of the island about the unrest.
While the initial protest seemed to have been spurred by decaying social services and access to basic goods and services brought on by the island’s consistent economic troubles and the coronavirus pandemic, some reports have made public signs of popular dissatisfaction with the government itself.
A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers — including Crist, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menéndez (D-N.J) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — on Thursday announced a resolution condemning the Cuban government and supporting the protesters.
President Biden on Monday released a statement supporting the protesters and calling out Havana for alleged acts of corruption.
Support for the protesters has been widespread among the U.S. political class, but suggestions on how to provide practical support without breaking the U.S. embargo have been scarce. Florida’s Crist has called for direct federal aid to the Cuban people.
Some lawmakers have suggested expanding internet access remotely for Cubans, but it’s unclear whether that can be technically accomplished.
Under Crist’s plan, the United States would “expedite food, water, internet, diapers, medicine, and vaccines in all possible avenues, including by sea or through the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.”
Crist made his appeal as some Miami groups have suggested forming private flotillas to take aid to Cuba, an approach the Department of Homeland Security has warned against.
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