Former Latin American leaders urge U.S. change on Cuba

Nov 1, 2022, 2:31 PM | Updated: 4:25 pm
FILE - A Cuban flag, shredded by the winds of Hurricane Ian, flies in the air while children play i...

FILE - A Cuban flag, shredded by the winds of Hurricane Ian, flies in the air while children play in the seawater from the waves breaking on Malecon in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. Eighteen former Latin American and Caribbean leaders have signed a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden to be released Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022, asking the United States to remove its six-decade embargo on Cuba in the wake of devastating damage inflicted by Hurricane Ian. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)

(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)

HAVANA (AP) — Eighteen former Latin American and Caribbean leaders have signed a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden asking the United States to remove its six-decade embargo on Cuba in the wake of devastation inflicted by Hurricane Ian.

The letter, shared with The Associated Press ahead of its Wednesday release, also requests that Biden remove Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism for providing refuge to leaders of a guerrilla group that is now set to reenter peace talks with Colombia, an American ally.

The letter comes as Cuba is suffering its worst economic, political and energy crises of the century so far, spurring a migratory exodus from the island. It was exacerbated by Hurricane Ian, which walloped western Cuba before hitting southern Florida late last month.

“We ask you, Mr. President, to take into account this dramatic situation that thousands of Cubans are experiencing and do whatever is necessary to lift those restrictions that affect the most vulnerable,” the letter reads.

Among the signatories are former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, two former Colombian leaders — Juan Manuel Santos and Ernesto Samper — and former leaders from Bolivia to Belize.

All of the signers are leftists or centrists. Notably absent were signatures from right-wing politicians, underscoring the deep divisions that the Caribbean island still provokes in the region.

The United Nations General Assembly is scheduled to vote this week on a resolution to condemn the trade embargo and it is expected to pass again for the 30th consecutive year.

Yet former Colombian President Ernesto Samper told The Associated Press in an interview that he doesn’t want the letter to be viewed as a political statement.

“At this moment, what worries us is that the ones paying the cost … are Cubans who are going without food, medicine or electricity,” Samper told the AP.

The trade embargo was imposed in 1962 as the Cuban revolution veered toward socialism. It has restricted Cuba’s access to a vast array of products, as well as international aid, and financial resources.

Island officials say the restrictions have made it harder to recover from the hurricane, which destroyed 14,000 homes and caused long-term damage to the country’s electrical grid.

While the Obama administration eased many sanctions, they came back into full force under the Trump administration, which justified the sanctions by re-designating Cuba as a state sponsor for terrorism for its refusal to extradite 10 leaders of Colombia’s biggest remaining guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army.

But that order was lifted when Colombia’s first leftist leader was inaugurated in August and announced new peace talks with the group. The rebel leaders recently left Cuba to hold negotiations in Venezuela.

Biden has eased a few measures, but has also been sharply critical of the Cuban government’s harsh treatment of protesters last year — which also hardened sentiment against concessions to the Cuban government among Cuban-Americans, a key voting bloc in Florida.

But the administration recently made a few friendly gestures, offering $2 million in emergency relief to help with hurricane recovery.

Fully lifting the embargo also would require authorization by Congress at a time deep of political division in the U.S., only made more difficult by approaching midterm elections in which Florida is a swing state.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Today in History: December 4, the “Million Dollar Quartet”

Today in History Today is Sunday, Dec. 4, the 338th day of 2022. There are 27 days left in the year. Today’s Highlights in History: On Dec. 4, 1956, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins gathered for the first and only time for a jam session at Sun Records in Memphis. […]
23 hours ago
A Palestinian flag and a poster showing Ammar Adili, 22, who was shot and killed by an Israeli bord...
Associated Press

Palestinians say killing caught on video was unjustified

HAWARA, West Bank (AP) — A makeshift sidewalk memorial with a Palestinian flag and a mourning notice paid tribute Saturday to a 22-year-old Palestinian whose death at the hands of an Israeli border police officer — four pistol shots from close range — was captured on widely shared amateur video. A day after the shooting […]
23 hours ago
FILE - A flu vaccine is readied at the L.A. Care and Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plans...
Associated Press

Flu season worsens as 44 states report high activity

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. flu season keeps getting worse. Health officials said Friday that 7.5% of outpatient medical visits last week were due to flu-like illnesses. That’s as high as the peak of the 2017-18 flu season and higher than any season since. The annual winter flu season usually doesn’t get going until […]
23 hours ago
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin introduces the B-21 Raider stealth at Northrop Grumman Friday, De...
Associated Press

Keep COVID military vaccine mandate, defense chief says

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he wants to keep the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place to protect the health of the troops, as Republican governors and lawmakers press to rescind it. This past week more than 20 Republican governors sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking […]
23 hours ago
Associated Press

Family says coyote attacked toddler outside LA home

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A coyote ambushed and injured a 2-year old girl outside her Los Angeles home in a daytime attack before her father chased the animal off, her family said. Home security video obtained by KTLA-TV shows the animal grab and drag the toddler across her lawn and sidewalk, just seconds after her […]
23 hours ago
FILE -  Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz, speaks during a press conference at the American University of Beir...
Associated Press

Longtime Arizona GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe dies at 80

PHOENIX (AP) — Jim Kolbe, a Republican congressman who represented a heavily Democratic region of Arizona for more than two decades and was a proponent of gay rights, has died. He was 80. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement that Kolbe died Saturday. Ducey ordered flags lowered until sunset Sunday. Kolbe served in […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
Former Latin American leaders urge U.S. change on Cuba