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Ocasio-Cortez: Concerned GOP laying 'groundwork for regime change' in Cuba

"What we need to do is urgently support human rights, the right for free speech, the right for protest, and not try to vaguely allude to the possibility of U.S. intervention and regime change," said the progressive New York representative.

Updated: July 20, 2021 - 10:58pm

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New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says she is concerned that Republicans are laying the "groundwork for regime change" in Cuba.

Ocasio-Cortez was asked for her response to GOP lawmakers who have said the protests for freedom in Cuba are evidence that socialism and communism are flawed economic systems.

"I think it's disappointing that Republicans are trying to make this about them, and not centering on human rights violations of Cubans and what's happening to the Cuban people," Ocasio-Cortez said on Tuesday after speaking at a news conference where Democrats called for the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps. 

"Right now, like, what we need to do is urgently support human rights, the right for free speech, the right for protest, and not try to vaguely allude to the possibility of U.S. intervention and regime change," she added.

Former Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell has criticized Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive Democrats who have called for an end to the U.S. embargo in response to the unrest in Cuba. 

Ocasio-Cortez responded to members of her party arguing that the economic problems in Cuba, which is led by a communist regime, are about much more than sanctions. 

"This issue is, it's not just one facet, but where the U.S. has historically been the most aggressive in and where, we, you know, in bringing up the embargo you're pointing to the U.S. role and U.S. actions because if you leave that gaping opening, my concern is that people are trying to lay the groundwork for regime change," Ocasio-Cortez said.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio addressed the calls from progressives to lift the embargo.

"Why aren't fishermen and farmers in Cuba allowed to fish or grow things and sell to people?" Rubio challenged. "It's not the embargo that keeps them from doing that. It's the regime. Why can't Cubans own a small business? Why can't a Cuban do in Cuba what they can do in Miami, what they can do in Washington, what they do in countries all over the world? They can't do it in Cuba. They can't open a small business. That's not the embargo that keeps them from doing it. In fact, U.S. law allows us to trade and do commerce with small businesses that are independently owned by Cubans."

Last week, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy announced the formation of an advisory team on Cuba, which includes Florida GOP Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Carlos Gimenez and Maria Salazar. 

"Today, as the situation in Cuba reaches a turning point, we must stand unequivocally with Cuba's brave freedom fighters," McCarthy said in a statement. "They need our robust support, not weak rhetoric.

"That is why I am launching the Leader's Advisory Team on Cuba and have asked its members to identify policies that will support the protestors and hold the Communist regime accountable for its human rights abuses," he added.

Ocasio-Cortez referred to the House GOP advisory team as "a political exercise."

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