An Open Letter to President Biden From Young Cuban Americans
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Dear President-elect Joe Biden:
CubaOne Foundation was born out of and inspired by the reestablishment of diplomatic and business ties between the U.S. and Cuba. Fueled by the possibilities of rapprochement with the United States and the emotional distance wrought by time, children and grandchildren of exiles began traveling across the Florida Straits in increasing numbers.
Since our founding, CubaOne has worked to inspire a new generation of Cuban Americans to reconnect with their heritage, family, and peers in Cuba. Over 4,000 young Cuban-Americans from across the country and all walks of life have applied to our program, which many have described as “life-changing.” We have seen our participants hug their grandparents for the first time, explore their heritage, develop friendships with Cuba’s youth, and return to share these deeply moving experiences with loved ones and communities here in the United States.
Today we are among the largest Cuban American organizations in the country. While much of our efforts would not be possible without the policy changes that began during your time in the Obama administration, our work transcends Washington’s politics, administrations, and political parties. As the children and grandchildren of political prisoners, Pedro Pan refugees, Bay of Pigs veterans, and descendants of Marielitos, we understand the pain of exile and the importance of human rights.
One of the lasting legacies of the Obama presidency is the impact it had on a new generation of Cuban Americans and our peers on the island. During your campaign, you said that you would pursue a policy of advancing U.S. interests and empowering the Cuban people to freely determine their own future. In advance of your inauguration, we respectfully ask that you consider recommendations from young Cuban Americans, which represent the views of the majority of Americans, Cuban Americans, and Cubans on the island:
- A PRO-CUBAN FAMILY POLICY THAT PRIORITIZES HUMAN RIGHTS. The North Star of our country’s Cuba policy should be advancing U.S. interests and the well-being of the Cuban people. To this end, we encourage you to pursue a pro-family policy of principled engagement. We also strongly support our U.S. diplomats working with their Cuban counterparts to address a variety of issues, including upholding America’s longstanding commitment to human rights around the world.
- AFFIRM THE RIGHT OF CUBAN AMERICANS TO VISIT AND SUPPORT OUR FAMILIES. Under your previous administration, travel restrictions were broadly lifted, allowing Cuban Americans to travel freely to visit family on the island. President Trump’s sharp reversal in this policy was counterproductive, cruel, and did nothing to improve human rights. We strongly urge you to reject these misguided recommendations and renew the successful travel policy implemented during the Obama administration.
- ENCOURAGE U.S. TRAVELERS TO SUPPORT CUBA’S PRIVATE SECTOR AND CIVIL SOCIETY. During your time as Vice-President, hundreds of thousands of Americans visited Cuba, fueling the fastest growth in its private sector since 1959. Rather than burdening Americans with government regulations that make it harder to visit the island, your Administration should encourage U.S. travelers to stay in Cuban family homes, support privately-owned small businesses, and go beyond the beaten tourist path. Cultural exchanges between the U.S. and Cuba were also effective at creating ties and understanding between Cuban Americans and Cubans alike. We would gladly work with you on developing such initiatives, as this is how we plan our visits to Cuba. Americans are the best ambassadors of our nation’s values, and we should want more of our people engaging and supporting broader cross-sections of Cuban society. Kitchen table diplomacy works, and we should encourage it.
- RESUME DISCUSSIONS WITH CUBA. While Cuban families have already begun the process of reconciliation, there is still much work to be done. In 2015, Pope Francis called on the Cuban government and the Obama administration to “set a global example of reconciliation.” The process of reconciliation requires diligence, discussion, compromise, patience and commitment on all sides. Renewed talks and visible commitment to reconciliation is important for lasting support of your policies by Cuban Americans and Cubans alike.
- RESTORE THE EMBASSY IN HAVANA. As the dozens of young Cuban Americans who have visited their loved ones on the island through our program can attest, the U.S. Embassy is vital to American interests and has graciously hosted Cuban Americans, Cuban youth, activists, artists, entrepreneurs, and students. A restored consular presence is also necessary for reunifying Cuban American families with their relatives on the island through the U.S. immigration process and travel visas. We encourage your administration to expand staffing at the embassy while providing adequate safeguards for people working there.
- SUPPORT CUBA’S ENTREPRENEURS, YOUTH, AND ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY. Since 2009, Cuba’s licensed private sector workforce has grown by over 300 percent, largely due to an infusion of remittances and visitors from the United States. We have been inspired by the Cuban entrepreneurs--particularly the youth--who work hard to offer better lives for their families. The expansion of wifi and mobile internet across the island has allowed for an increased flow of information, independent digital media outlets, and the creation of new business models that make use of 3G and 4G cell phone service. Your administration should support these efforts and the ability of U.S. technology companies to support the expansion of the internet in Cuba.
Cuba is responsible for deciding its fate, but we believe the United States can play a positive role through engagement. These recommendations are actionable, and reflect the views and values of the majority of the American people, Cuban Americans, and the 11 million Cubans on the island. Our efforts are continuing, and have continued even in the face of political challenges and headwinds. We continue to need advocates to voice and give support for engagement. We will always welcome an opportunity to discuss with you the importance of US-Cuba policy to our generation, our community, and our country.
Carlos Lazo, Bridges of Love / Puentes de Amor
Center for Democracy in the Americas
Cuba Educational Travel
Cuban American Narratives & Dialogue for Equity, Liberation and Allyship (CANDELA)
Cuban American Youth Orchestra
Like a Cuban
Marisa Daniela (@mimaincuba)
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