Chair of US Foreign Relations Committee sends positive message on US Cuba policy

Campaign News | Thursday, 30 November 2023

Ben Cardin, recently appointed as chair of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), has responded to questions from a CSC member on his approach to US Cuba relations.

On 28 November, Senator Cardin wrote a full and far reaching letter which made clear his commitment to ‘an open and Bilateral relationship’ between the two countries.
The Senator served as SFRC chair during the Obama presidency where he was influential in supporting positive changes in US-Cuba relations, including the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, the opening of embassies in Washington and Havana, and the restoration of many bilateral ties including an increase in licenses granted to allow US citizens licenses to visit the island.

In the letter Cardin said that these policies “helped create more constructive and direct bilateral engagement. The renewal of direct flights in 2016 marked another milestone in the restoration of the US-Cuba relationship.”

He also reflected on his visit to Cuba as part of a bipartisan Senate delegation in 2015: “I was delighted by the friendliness and hospitality of the Cuban people and engaged with government officials on critical issues related to US-Cuba normalization, human rights, and democratic governance. These meetings further confirmed to me that bilateral normalization would uplift both the American and Cuban people and economies.”

Criticising the Trump administration’s Cuba policy he writes: “I was disappointed—but ultimately unsurprised—to see former President Donald Trump roll back many of President Obama's successes related to Cuba.” He goes on to welcome the limited changes brought in by President Biden: “I am pleased that the Biden Administration has worked to reverse some of these unproductive Trump-era policies, including by resuming direct U.S.-Cuba flights, facilitating family reunification practices, and restoring engagement on issues such as migration.”

Senator Cardin’s appointment is viewed as a positive step towards engagement, and comes after the resignation of the previous chair, pro-blockade hardliner, Senator Bob Menendez, who was forced to resign following corruption charges.

The letter gives further hope to those who want to see a better, more normalised relationship between the US and Cuba as Cardin sets out his vision for future relations: “As the current Chairman of SFRC, I will continue to advocate for enhanced and constructive US.-Cuba relations, in tandem with improvements to Cuba's human rights record. The US must position itself to advance its national interests, engage with the Cuban people directly, and advocate an agenda defined by fundamental freedoms,” he concludes.

CSC Director, Rob Miller, welcomed the letter saying: “Senator Ben Cardin played a positive role in helping better US-Cuba relations under Obama and we hope that in his current role as SRFC Chair he will once again be brave in his work towards developing a more just and rational US policy. It really is time that the United States moved away from a 60 year old failed Cold War policy towards one of respect and understanding between close neighbours”

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