Miami Republican Mayor Francis Suarez has suggested that the US consider airstrikes against Cuba as anti-government protests prompted by economic struggles, food shortages and rising prices roil the island nation.
“What should be contemplated right now is a coalition of potential military action in Cuba,” Mr Suarez told Fox News on Tuesday.
His father was born in Cuba and previously occupied the office he now inhabits.
When the Miami Mayor was asked if he was calling for airstrikes, he said: “What I’m suggesting is that option is one that has to be explored, and one that cannot be just simply discarded.”
Mr Suarez’s comments come after Cuba saw its largest anti-government protests in decades on Sunday.
Amid the clashes, one man died and more than 140 have been arrested or been reported missing during the rare protests against the island nation’s communist regime.
Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, 36, died in a Havana suburb on Monday as protesters faced the police. The interior ministry of Cuba didn’t reveal the cause of death but alleged that he had been a part of a group that attacked a state facility. But witnesses say government forces attacked the protesters.
South Florida has the largest share of Cuban Americans in the country and Miami has seen demonstrations in support of the Cuban protest movement.
Some Republicans are arguing that Mr Biden should take a tough stance against the authoritarian Cuban government, but several Democrats are urging Mr Biden to lift the trade embargo that has been in place for decades and remove sanctions and restrictions imposed during the Trump administration.
“The Cuban people are crying out for help. We have a moral obligation not only to provide humanitarian assistance but to END the failed, unilaterally harmful trade embargo that has caused enormous pain and suffering among the Cuban people for nearly six decades,” Illinois Democratic Rep Bobby Rush tweeted.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wrote: “All people have the right to protest and to live in a democratic society. I call on the Cuban government to respect opposition rights and refrain from violence. It’s also long past time to end the unilateral U.S. embargo on Cuba, which has only hurt, not helped, the Cuban people.”
Mr Trump reversed the Obama administration’s policy of re-establishing diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba.
“I don’t think the embargo is cruel at all,” Mr Suarez said on Tuesday. “I think the Cuban people aren’t asking for a lifting of the embargo. They’re going out on the streets every single day talking about the failure of the communist regime to provide for its people... It has failed for six decades.”
Critics note the embargo has not led to democracy being established in Cuba, harms the Cuban people, and has served as a way for the Communist regime to blame its failures on external forces.
Then-president Obama urged Congress to lift the embargo in 2016.
“It is an outdated burden on the Cuban people,” Mr Obama said in Havana. “It’s a burden on the Americans who want to work and do business or invest here in Cuba. It's time to lift the embargo.”
The Biden administration has not made any larger changes to the Trump administrations policies towards Cuba and they have made clear that it’s not a top foreign policy priority.
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