Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) drew the ire of a former Florida Democratic congresswoman after she suggested that the U.S. is partially responsible for the the deprivation that has led to civil unrest in Cuba in recent days.
“We also must name the U.S contribution to Cuban suffering: our sixty-year-old embargo,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “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.”
Former Florida congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell criticized Ocasio-Cortez’s assessment of the situation in Cuba on Twitter.
“No. This is not correct. It’s the failed policies of a communist regime that has violated human rights, imprisoned & killed dissidents,” she wrote. “Cuban ppl -young & old- are risking their lives to rise up, we must listen to them.”
“This is a matter of national security. The U.S. must act,” she said.
The dispute between the two politicians symbolizes a deeper divide in opinion between the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic party.
Ocasio-Cortez, a congresswoman of Hispanic heritage, has pronounced herself a Democratic-Socialist, a political persuasion which has trigged the concerns of many Cuban-Americans and Latinos who have experienced suffering and economic hardship under regimes with a similar name in their native countries. Their fears solidified in 2020 when Mucarsel-Powell, who has been advising House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Cuba policy, was voted out of her Latino-concentrated South Florida district and replaced by a Republican.
The Democratic representatives’ Twitter exchange came in the wake of protests that erupted across Cuba this past weekend, demanding “freedom” and an “end to the dictatorship” that has mired the population in poverty and oppression for decades.
At first slow to react to the turmoil in Cuba, President Biden said Thursday that communism is a “failed system,” adding that socialism is not a “very useful substitute.” At a press briefing Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that the White House believes “communism is a failed ideology.”
“We certainly believe that it has failed the people of Cuba,” she said.