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Waltz, Gimenez, and Salazar Ask Senate Foreign Relations Committee to Reject Nominees Who Refuse to Assure Tough Stances on Cuba & Venezuela Regimes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Saturday, U.S. Congressman Michael Waltz (FL-6), Congressman Carlos Gimenez (FL-26), and Congresswoman Maria Salazar (FL-27) sent a letter to incoming Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (SCFR) Chairman Robert Menendez and Ranking Member Jim Risch requesting members of the committee reject any Biden Administration nominees that do not commit to promoting democracy, economic liberalization, and basic civil liberties in policy positions toward Cuba and Venezuela.

“The regimes in Cuba and Venezuela have continued to carry out policies of repression towards their citizens, used their government resources to promote terror, and contributed greatly to destabilizing activities in the Western Hemisphere,” said Waltz. “The Obama Administration made a grave error in attempting to normalize relations with Cuba without preconditions and Biden Administration nominees must commit that such policies will not be replicated.” 

“Our foreign policy towards Latin America must be rooted in defense of human rights, democracy, and free-market capitalism. This includes policies of maximum pressure on the brutal dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela to curb their communist expansionist vision and their undermining of legitimate, democratic governments throughout the hemisphere,” said Gimenez. “Our national security interests are intertwined with pro-freedom policies in Latin America. It’s time for President-elect Biden to make that commitment clear by nominating Cabinet appointees and senior foreign policy officials who share that vision for Latin America.”

“My community is home to the many men and women who have fled from the brutal dictatorships that terrorize the people of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua,” said Salazar. “Our government should reflect our American values of freedom, democracy, and Human Rights. Our leaders must acknowledge the truly dangerous nature of these regimes and hold the dictators accountable for their countless crimes against humanity.”

In the letter, the Representatives lay out conditions for SCFR members to press Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken and other nominees during their upcoming nomination hearings. 

Millions of Floridians of both Cuban and Venezuelan descent have significantly contributed to the state’s culture and economy, and are a testament to what is possible in a free and prosperous country. The people of Cuba and Venezuela should be afforded the same opportunities. 

For over half a century the people of Cuba have endured government repression, lack of basic freedoms of expression, and have seen their resources spent to promote instability in other Latin American countries. The people of Venezuela have seen their once prosperous country erode under the tyranny of Nicolas Maduro who has led violent crackdowns pro-democratic voices and overseen economic devastation that has led to regional instability. 

Any policy directed at either of these countries should be focused on promoting the people directly and not lending any legitimacy towards their corrupt government regimes. 

Below are a list of assurances Congressman Waltz, Congressman Gimenez, and Congresswoman Salazar are asking SFRC members to seek assurances from Biden Administration nominees:  

  • Recognize a symbiotic relationship between Cuba and Venezuela.
  • Recognize the freely and fairly elected Venezuelan National Assembly as the legal and legitimate government of Venezuela.
  • Concede that “the direction that the government of Cuba chose to go” following the so-called “Cuban Thaw” in 2014 is an afront to basic human rights.
  • Commit to continuing to list Cuba on the State Sponsor of Terrorism List.
  • Agree to fully consider adding Venezuela to the State Sponsor of Terrorism List.
  • Agree to maintaining or expanding existing sanctions on the Cuban and Venezuelan regimes.
  • Agree to maintaining or expanding sanctions targeting the energy sector of the Venezuelan regime.
  • Agree to maintaining or expanding sanctions targeting the finance and tourism sectors, controlled by the Cuban military.
  • Agree to discouraging American adversaries from propping-up and assisting the Cuban and Venezuelan regimes.
  • Promote international cooperation in imposing and enforcing sanctions on the Cuban and Venezuelan regimes.
  • Promote independent news and information to the Cuban people.
  • Recognize the ties between Cuba and Venezuela, and the State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN).
  • Agree to maintaining the Foreign Terrorist Organization designation for the FARC and ELN.
  • Consider granting Temporary Protective Status (TPS) to Venezuelans currently in the United States until they can return to a restored-democratic Venezuela where they can contribute their talents to rebuild their homeland.
  • Section 890 of the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (PL 116-92), with some exceptions, barred the Pentagon from contracting with any company that also contracts with the Maduro regime in Venezuela.  Support a similar prohibition on contractors across all Federal Departments and agencies.