Newly elected Miami Rep. María Elvira Salazar has started her work in Congress with a bill, co-sponsored by other Cuban-American lawmakers, to block any improvement in relations between Cuba and the Biden administration.
“Very proud of my first bill,” Salazar wrote on her social network accounts.
The bill seeks to block the next Democratic administration from removing Cuba from the list of countries that promote and finance terrorism. Cuba was removed from the list by the Obama administration in 2015, and was then returned to it by the Trump administration this week.
The bill also says Cuba would first have to free all political prisoners and promise to hold free and fair elections before it could be taken off the list.
“Cubans are not exceptional. They want to be the same as the world. They want freedom. They want human rights and to live in peace,” Salazar posted.
She noted that federal law already ties ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba to substantial progress by the island in respect to human rights.
Eight other members of Congress, including Miami Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Gimenez, co-sponsored the bill.
Gimenez, the former Miami-Dade County mayor elected to Congress along with Salazar in November, said he felt “very honored” to co-sponsor the bill and added that “for Cuba to finally become a free and open country, we must apply a daring and solid strategy of maximum pressure.”
Cuban-American Republicans in Miami have traditionally favored a hard-line policy toward the Havana regime and backed the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, which held Cuba responsible for the humanitarian catastrophe in Venezuela.
“It’s time for Congress for take a step forward and permanently name the Communist regime in Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism,” Gimenez said.
Diaz-Balart said Cuba must remain on the terror list “until it stops spreading its malevolence to all our hemisphere and puts an end to its brutal repression of the Cuban people.”
The Trump administration has said Cuba has a “malignant” influence on Venezuela and that its decision to return Cuba to the terror list was based on Havana’s refusal to extradite leaders of the National Liberation Army, a leftist Colombian guerrilla group, who have been in Havana for now-collapsed peace talks with Bogota.
Cuba criticized the decision to return the country to the terror list and complained that it was a “victim” of terrorism from the United States.
The Cuban foreign ministry also branded the return to the list as a maneuver to block an improvement in bilateral relations after Trump leaves office.
Salazar, who tested positive for COVID-19 after being hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat on Dec. 23, wasn’t sworn in as a member of Congress until this week. Her first vote was against removing President Donald Trump under the 25th Amendment.