Sun Sentinel
Op-Ed: Sen. Rick Scott
October 17, 2020

This November, Americans will again have the opportunity to exercise their democratic right to vote. We are so fortunate to live in a country founded on principles of liberty and democracy — a country that truly respects the will of its people. It’s a right that many take for granted. But there are countries right in our hemisphere, including Cuba and Venezuela, in which the outcome of their sham “elections” has been decided before the first vote is cast.

For years, the United States, a country founded on freedom and liberty for all, turned a blind eye to what is happening right here in our hemisphere. We had career politicians like Joe Biden, who defend the Cuban regime and supported policies that provide a financial windfall to Cuba to support their crimes. Just last week during a campaign stop in Miami, Biden criticized the Trump administration’s Cuba policy and tried to rewrite history by saying, “For my entire career, I stood for democracy and human rights, for freedom of the press, assembly and religion against dictators of the left and the right.”

Politicians like Joe Biden have stalled the fight for freedom in Latin America. Obama’s appeasement did nothing to help the Cuban people. They were just as oppressed as always, but the Cuban regime profited more from Americans. Contrast that with the Trump administration, which is standing up to murderous regimes around the world. President Trump has imposed significant sanctions on the Maduro regime, and the administration has recognized that the root of the instability and chaos we see in Latin America stems from Cuba. They are taking action against Cuba, which is the most powerful force behind the Maduro regime in Venezuela, largely because of the free oil they receive in return. President Trump is taking historic steps and rolling back the appeasements and Obama-era policies that allowed the regime to profit from Americans.

If you visit South Florida, you will most likely meet Cuban Americans who fled from the Castro regime. Throughout my time as governor and now as senator, I’ve heard countless stories of Castro’s atrocities.

Just two weeks ago, I spoke with my friend Jorge Luis García Pérez, “Antúnez," who was jailed for 17 years in a Cuban gulag. In 1990, Castro officials heard him say that communism was an “error” during a public event. For that, he was sentenced to five years in prison — a sentence that was extended when he refused to accept the regime’s human rights violations. Antúnez was beaten and starved for years and only released from prison due to international pressure. And just like Antúnez, thousands of Cubans have been jailed by the regime for simply speaking out against their atrocities.

For decades, nothing was done to hold Cuba accountable, and the strategies the regime used to oppress its people evolved. The Cuban government makes an estimated $7 billion annually by exporting professional services, including so-called “medical missions.” Yet they rarely, if ever, pay a living wage to the medical professionals they force to work in other countries, confiscating their passports and subjecting them to poor living conditions and surveillance. That is why, earlier this year, I introduced legislation that would deter other countries from participating in this human trafficking scheme.

Cuba’s strategy of exporting repression has only increased as appeasement policies increased their access to capital and is the main reason Maduro is still in power. Cuba has operatives in Venezuela providing intelligence to the regime, and it is well documented that Cuban officials assisted the regime during the 2018 elections. Cuba and Venezuela have also established a military partnership in 2008 between Venezuela’s military and the Cuban regime. This included the “training” of Venezuelan military officials.

It is time for the international community to recognize Cuba for what it is. And it’s time for the American people to stand against elected officials who choose appeasement over sanctions. Appeasement doesn’t work. The growing instability in Latin America is evidence of the failure of appeasement. Claiming to support freedom for Venezuela while also supporting appeasement in Cuba is the height of hypocrisy.

As a nation, we must stand united in the principles our country was founded on — freedom and democracy for all. We must stand against candidates like Joe Biden that choose appeasement over sanctions.

The security of our hemisphere and our identity as a country depends on it.

Rick Scott is the junior United States senator from Florida.

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