PUNTA GORDA, Fla.–Gov. Ron DeSantis blasted the Biden administration’s expanding flights to Cuba and loosening restrictions on U.S. travelers, saying it is a “slap in the face” to South Floridians who have had experience with “Marxist dictators.”
“You have people that (are) so badly oppressed that they would get on a raft and go 90 miles over shark-infested waters to be able to get to freedom,” DeSantis said. “You have people whose entire livelihoods were taken from them; their entire liberty was taken away from them, and they’ve come to South Florida.”
The “increased tourism” the president has announced only benefits the “dictatorship of Cuba” and not the people, the governor said at a press conference on May 17 at the University of Miami.
The Biden administration announced on May 17 that it will expand flights to Cuba, loosen restrictions on U.S. travelers to the island, and lift Trump-era restrictions on money that immigrants can send to people there. Biden said he believes this will increase tourism to benefit the people of Cuba through entrepreneurial endeavors.
The State Department, in a May 17 statement, said it will “remove the current $1,000-per-quarter limit on family remittances and will allow non-family remittance, which will support independent Cuban entrepreneurs, and will allow scheduled and charter flights to locations beyond Havana.”
When Biden was a presidential candidate, he promised he would reverse the Trump directives and revert to the Obama-era policies that loosened embargo restrictions dating back decades.
The Trump era restrictions, combined with the pandemic, contributed to an economic crisis in Cuba with reports of power outages, rationing, and shortages of basic needs. The conditions led to demonstrations, arrests, and imprisonment.
According to some media reports recently the U.S. and the Cuban government began conversations because of a surge of Cubans attempting to emigrate illegally to the U.S.
The president’s new policies did not sit well with the governor.
“Understand the minute you’re sending more (money) to the island, [it’s] going right into the pocket of the Cuban dictatorship,” DeSantis said. “That is not going to help the people of Cuba realize freedom.”
Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican, said he would “put a hold” on relevant Biden nominees that require Senate confirmation until the decision was reversed.
“Biden can frame this however he wants, but this is the truth: This is nothing but an idiotic attempt to return to Obama’s failed appeasement policies and a clear sign of support for the evil regime,” Scott told reporters following the announcement.
DeSantis pointed out that similar things happened in other Latin American countries.
“You’ve seen the same thing of what’s happened with Venezuela—they used to be a very prosperous country,” he said. “Then [came] Chavez and Maduro—now it’s a third world country, even though they have so many natural resources.”
The same things happened in Nicaragua and Colombia, he said. But the Cuban people look to the United States—and especially Florida—for freedom.
“Around the entire world [Florida] is a beachhead of freedom,” DeSantis continued. “To equate that with those regimes just shows that you have no idea what you’re talking about. It really does a disservice to the oppression that so many people in southern Florida have faced, either first-hand or through members of their family.”
The governor wanted people to know that the views of the president do not reflect those of the Republican Party nor of South Floridians.
“I realized there may be some people in the state of Florida—not in my party—but some other politicians who have a soft spot for dictatorships,” DeSantis said. “Like in Cuba, they have a soft spot for people like Maduro and Ortega, and I just want people to know that I have contempt for those views.”