Several U.S. politicians have expressed support for Cuba’s communist revolution (1953-1959) and the decades-long regime of its dictatorial leader, Fidel Castro, who ruled over the island from 1959-2008 as either prime minister or president.
In the wake of Cuba’s most recent protests against the island’s communist during the past week, Breitbart News recalls how many of the Cuban Revolution’s most public advocates occupy prominent positions within the U.S. government. Breitbart News attempted to reach out to those listed for comment on the current situation in Cuba in light of their prior statements and actions; only Governor Greg Abbott (R) of Texas responded.
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA)
Sen. Warnock said Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro had a “complex” legacy two days after Castro’s death on November 25, 2016.
“We pray for the people of Cuba in this moment. We remember Fidel Castro, whose legacy is complex. Don’t let anyone tell you a simple story; life usually isn’t very simple. His legacy is complex, kind of like America’s legacy is complex,” Warnock said at a memorial for the late Cuban dictator.
Warnock worked as an assistant pastor for Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City in the 1990s at the same time the church hosted Fidel Castro in 1995. Warnock in late 2020 denied meeting Castro during the Cuban leader’s visit to Abyssinian Baptist Church.
“I’ve never met him. I didn’t invite him. He has nothing to do with me,” Warnock said during a debate with U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) on December 6, 2020.
U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus
Rep. Bass worked closely with the Venceremos Brigade, a “Cuban communist front group founded in 1969 by Fidel Castro and the radical members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)” during the first half of her political career. “The Brigade was run by the Cuban intelligence service, the General Directorate for Intelligence (DGI),” according to Breitbart News.
Rep. Bass made at least eight trips to Cuba through her involvement with the Venceremos Brigade over the course of several years starting in 1973. The organization “began as a joint venture of the Castro government and [the U.S.-based] Students for a Democratic Society [SDS], the leftist, antiwar organization that gave birth to the Weather Underground terrorist group,” the Atlantic noted last July.
According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Weather Underground “was a small, violent offshoot of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), created in the turbulent ‘60s to promote social change.”
“When the SDS collapsed in 1969, the Weather Underground stepped forward, inspired by communist ideologies and embracing violence and crime as a way to protest the Vietnam War, racism, and other left-wing aims,” the FBI wrote in a now-archived article posted to its official website in 2004.
“‘Our intention is to disrupt the empire … to incapacitate it, to put pressure on the cracks,’ claimed the group’s 1974 manifesto, Prairie Fire,” according to the FBI. “By the next year, the group had claimed credit for 25 bombings and would be involved in many more over the next several years.”
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) February 24, 2020
“When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?” Sanders asked.
Sanders asked this question while defending previous comments he made in the 1980s “explaining why the Cuban people didn’t rise up and help the U.S. overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro,” according to 60 Minutes.
“He [Fidel Castro] educated the kids, gave them healthcare, totally transformed the society,” Sanders said of Castro’s regime in the 1980s.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
My thoughts & prayers are with the Cuban people. We must continue to build on the progress we've made strengthening ties between our nations pic.twitter.com/s1GdHOcMRb
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) November 27, 2016
The press release read:
Oakland, CA — Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a steering committee member of the Congressional Cuba Working Group, released this statement on the passing of Cuban leader Fidel Castro:
‘My deepest condolences to Fidel Castro’s family and the Cuban people during this time.
While there are many disagreements between our countries, President Castro was a recognized world leader who was dedicated to the Cuban people.
It is my hope that we continue to build on President Obama’s efforts to end the failed embargo, lift the travel ban and normalize relations between our two countries.’
Lee encouraged the public to “mourn” the “loss” of Fidel Castro in an interview with the East Bay Times the next day.
“We need to stop and pause and mourn his loss,” Lee said, adding that she “was very sad for the Cuban people” upon learning of the dictator’s death.
“He led a revolution in Cuba that led social improvements for his people,” the U.S. representative, who reportedly met with Castro “on numerous occasions” before his death, claimed.
Lee said her personal encounters with Castro led her to think of him as “a smart man. A historian. He wanted normal relations with the United States but not at the expense of the accomplishments of the revolution.”
“Lee’s connections to Cuba date to 1977, when she was a member of then-Rep. Ron Dellums’ staff and took part in a National Conference of Black Lawyers fact-finding mission to the island nation,” Politico reported in November 2016. “For a young activist from the San Francisco Bay area, she recalled, it was eye-opening.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Cuomo, a Democrat, was the first U.S. governor to visit Cuba after then-U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration restored diplomatic relations with the island in 2015.
— Camagüey Today (@walro072010) April 22, 2015
Cuomo said the U.S.-Cuba agreement was “courageous” at a business conference on the island on April 20, 2015.
“We want to do everything we can to help,” he added.
Cuomo referred to “part of a deal hammered out over 18 months of secret talks” by the Obama administration, Reuters noted at the time. The arrangement “loosened travel regulations, opened the door to some financial services, trade in information technology, aviation and other sectors and announced it will eliminate Cuba from the [U.S.] State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.”
The governor “mixed in some fun” during his April 2015 Cuba visit, “drinking a mojito at the Hotel Nacional, while Cuban officials gave him what he said was his first ever Cuban cigar,” according to Reuters. “Cuomo joked that if he rushed through his speech, he would have time to smoke it.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
Abbott has promoted business with the Castro regime and flew to Cuba in December 2015 to promote his state’s economic interests on the island, which was then newly reopened to U.S. trade. There, according to the Communist Party newspaper Granma, he met with Vice President of the Council of Ministers Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz to discuss “the foreign economic relations of Cuba, the interests of the business sector of that state [Texas] in Cuba, [and] economic as well as commercial opportunities like investment in our country.”
The governor, a Republican, told Breitbart News during a press call from the U.S. Embassy in Havana on December 3 that he was there to offer Cubans a “Texas brand of freedom, entrepreneurship and free enterprise.”
When Breitbart News asked Abbott if he had met with Cuban dissidents during his time on the island, the conservative leader “tried to fudge his answer,” replying that he “had met with people with an entrepreneurial spirit.”
Abbott shared a meme in support of the protesters on Twitter. Asked about his trip to Cuba this weekend, Abbott told Breitbart News he supported Obama’s efforts to do business with the Castro regime because Cuban people need “free enterprise” and “economic ties with the Cuban people could have paved a path out of the poverty I witnessed.” He did not elaborate on how economic ties with Castro regime-owned companies would have helped the Cuban people.
Former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
Former Sen. Flake, who was nominated to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey by U.S. President Joe Biden on July 13, “has a relationship with senior members of the Cuban government,” Politico noted in December 2014.
Flake has visited Cuba on several occasions since the early 2000s.
Flake wrote to then-U.S. President Barack Obama on December 11, 2014, arguing the president “should lift restrictions on remittances and support policies to build Cuba’s domestic Internet infrastructure,” according to Politico. Flake told the publication the “dramatic policy changes” announced less than one week later by Obama, which would greatly improve the Castro regime’s ability to generate revenue, exceeded his expectations.
“I was very happy to see he went beyond every one of them with his policy changes,” he said. “I would have liked more. I’m pleased with everything the president did, and I hope Congress goes further and removes the embargo. I just didn’t think he was prepared to go as far as he did. I was pleasantly surprised.”
Flake again “encouraged [Cuban] Communist Party leaders to allow internet companies to seek greater profits on the island” during a trip to Havana with then-Google CEO Eric Schmidt in June 2018. During his 2018 visit to Cuba, Flake enjoyed a “friendly visit” with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel.
“It was certainly a friendly meeting with the president, he very much … he’s an engineer and was certainly, talking about this subject, was very fluent in what is needed in Cuba and the benefits that come from greater connectivity,” Flake told reporters shortly after meeting the Cuban leader.
President Diaz-Canal ordered Cuba’s state-run telecom monopoly ETECSA to block social media access on July 12 in an effort to prevent Cuban citizens from sharing information about the country’s latest pro-democracy protests. ETECSA has continued to limit access to social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram and instant messaging apps such as Telegram and WhatsApp through rolling internet blackouts across Cuba over the past week.