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As the son of Cuban exiles whose parents fled their country in search of freedom and opportunity, I can attest to the fact that President Joe Biden has long stood — and continues to stand — in solidarity with the Cuban people’s struggle for freedom.
I’ve known Biden for a decade and seen firsthand his leadership on Cuba; for example, as vice president, he met with Cuban independent journalists and human-rights leaders such as Yoani Sanchez. From his time as a U.S. senator until now, Biden has a long track record of advancing the cause of freedom and democracy around the world — and especially in Cuba.
This past week, I was honored to participate in a meeting with the president, alongside a diverse group of Cuban-American community leaders — including Yotuel, the author and lead singer of the Cuban freedom anthem “Patria y Vida.” Each of us brought a range of experiences, backgrounds and viewpoints, but all had deep ties to our brothers and sisters on the island.
While we might differ on tactics, we are all in pursuit of our common goal and aspiration for a free Cuba, and the president is firmly with us. It speaks to the uniqueness of this moment — and to his presidency.
In the meeting, Biden demonstrated his profound empathy with the Cubans’ pain and desire for freedom. He also empathized those of us in this country, saying: “Cuban Americans are hurting. They’re hurting because their loved ones are suffering. And it’s, quite frankly, intolerable. So, I want the Cuban Americans to know that we — myself included — see your pain, we hear your voices, and we hear the cries of freedom coming from the island.”
The president repeatedly made clear that his administration is answering their calls.
Almost 20 years ago, I co-founded Roots of Hope, along with a passionate group of young leaders determined to help empower Cuban youth to become authors of their own future. We were responding to a deep sense of despair on the island that led to countless young people launching themselves into the sea in search of a better life abroad.
What makes this moment so unique is that, for the first time in six decades, the young people of Cuba have lost their fear and aren’t taking to the seas — they’re taking to the streets.
And we are uniquely positioned to meet them where they are and support them.
To this end, Biden clearly outlined the actions his administration is taking to ensure we hold accountable a Cuban regime that represses its people while also finding ways for us to increase support for our brothers and sisters on the island through greater access to resources and technology.
For instance, new, targeted sanctions and international pressure on the regime have been coupled with seeking to provide internet access, as well as badly needed humanitarian aid and remittances — which will ultimately help Cubans become more self-reliant and independent from the regime, especially if we can ensure that the Cuban military won’t take a cut.
President Biden and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan reiterated that Cuba is a top national security priority and that they are taking a whole-of-government approach to #SOSCuba.
To this end, the president said, “We’re increasing direct support for the Cuban people by pursuing every option available to provide internet access to help the Cuban people bypass the censorship.”
To say he is evaluating every option is a profound statement and one that clearly demonstrates his leadership and deep commitment to taking a whole-of-government approach to supporting the Cuban people at this pivotal moment.
This moment calls for us to put partisan politics aside and unite in support of the Cuban people and their fight for freedom.
L. Felice Gorordo is CEO of eMerge Americas and co-founder of Roots of Hope, a non-profit focused on empowering youth in Cuba.