Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., issued a statement Thursday night calling for the U.S. to lift its embargo of Cuba.
"The embargo is absurdly cruel and, like too many other U.S. policies targeting Latin Americans, the cruelty is the point," Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement posted on Twitter. "I outright reject the Biden administration’s defense of the embargo. It is never acceptable for us to use cruelty as a point of leverage against every day people."
Ocasio-Cortez's statement was her first official comment after demonstrations erupted in Cuba on Sunday with thousands of people in the streets voicing grievances against shortages of goods, rising prices, and power cuts. Some protesters have called for a change of government.
"We are seeing Cubans rise up and protest for their rights like never before," Ocasio-Cortez said. "We stand in solidarity with them, and we condemn the anti-democratic actions led by [Cuban] President [Miguel] Diaz-Canel. The suppression of the media, speech and protest are all gross violations of civil rights."
The embargo against Cuba began in 1962, and since 2000 has not permitted the trade of food and humanitarian supplies.
Ocasio-Cortez’s comments echo those of other progressives.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., tweeted earlier this week that the embargo had "only hurt, not helped, the Cuban people."
Black Lives Matter tweeted a statement denouncing the embargo as a "cruel and inhumane policy" that was "instituted with the explicit intention of destabilizing the country and undermining Cubans’ right to choose their own government."
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who represented Florida in the House for a single term before losing her reelection bid last year, took issue with Ocasio-Cortez’s statement.
"No. This is not correct," Mucarsel-Powell tweeted while sharing AOC’s statement.
"It’s the failed policies of a communist regime that has violated human rights, imprisoned & killed dissidents. Cuban ppl -young & old- are risking their lives to rise up, we must listen to them. This is a matter of national security. The US must act."
During a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday, President Joe Biden was asked about the possibility of lifting the embargo.
"There are a number of things that we would consider doing to help the people of Cuba," Biden said, "but it would require a different circumstance or a guarantee that they would not be taken advantage of by the government."
The latest protests represent the most significant challenge to the Havana regime in nearly three decades.
Diaz-Canel has blamed the U.S. government and Cuban-Americans for inciting the unrest and has called on his supporters to fight back in the streets, the New York Post reported.
The Cuban government confirmed at least one person had died during the protests.
The Post said Miami-based América TeVé reported officials have claimed that the fatality victim had a criminal record in order to "tarnish his image." The news outlet also reported that thousands more Cubans either are missing or have been detained since the demonstrations began.
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