alexandria ocasio cortez
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks during an event outside Union Station June 16, 2021 in Washington, DC. Ocasio-Cortez, joined by Rep. Seth Moulton (D-NY) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), called for increased federal funding for high-speed rail in the infrastructure package being discussed on Capitol Hill.
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  • AOC ripped into the US embargo on Cuba and the Biden administration's ongoing support for it.
  • "The embargo is absurdly cruel and … the cruelty is the point," she said in a statement.
  • The New York Democrat also expressed solidarity with anti-government protestors in Cuba.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday expressed solidarity with anti-government, pro-democracy protestors in Cuba while also ripping into the decades-old US embargo on Cuba and the Biden administration's ongoing support for it.

"The embargo is absurdly cruel and, like too many other U.S. policies targeting Latin Americans, the cruelty is the point. I outright reject the Biden administration's defense of the embargo," Ocasio-Cortez said.

The New York Democrat also condemned the "anti-democratic actions" of the government of Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, saying, "The suppression of media, speech and protest are all gross violations of civil rights."

But she underscored that the US embargo on Cuba, which has been the centerpiece of Washington's policy toward the island nation for six decades, is also contributing to the suffering of Cubans.

Ocasio-Cortez's rebuke of the embargo came after Cuba this week saw the largest anti-government demonstrations in decades, ignited by a desire for more freedoms and an escalating economic crisis.

The situation has increased scrutiny over President Joe Biden's policy toward Cuba.

As Ocasio-Cortez noted in her statement, the UN last month voted for a resolution calling on the US to end the embargo. The Biden administration opposed the resolution. For nearly 30 years, the UN has repeatedly and overwhelmingly voted in favor of the resolution condemning the embargo, with the US consistently standing against it.

When Biden was vice president, the US abstained from voting for the embargo for the first and only time as the Obama administration moved to reopen diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba.

In March 2016, then-President Barack Obama visited Havana and called for Congress to end the embargo on Cuba, which began during the Cold War amid tensions with the Soviet Union.

"It is an outdated burden on the Cuban people," Obama said at the time. "It's a burden on the Americans who want to work and do business or invest here in Cuba. It's time to lift the embargo."

Former President Donald Trump took a drastically different approach to Cuba, reversing the Obama administration's efforts to rekindle relations by tightening the embargo and issuing new sanctions. The Trump-era sanctions have contributed to medicine and food shortages in Cuba.

During his 2020 campaign, Biden vowed to renew engagement with Cuba. "I'd try to reverse the failed Trump policies that inflicted harm on Cubans and their families," Biden said in September 2020. He added that Trump "has done nothing to advance democracy and human rights; on the contrary, the crackdown on Cubans by the regime has gotten worse under Trump, not better."

But the Biden administration's policy toward Cuba has effectively been a continuation of Trump's approach. Biden is facing growing calls from Democrats to lift the Trump-era sanctions on Cuba and provide much-needed economic relief to Cubans.

Meanwhile, criticism of the embargo among Democrats is also rising. Only Congress can fully lift the embargo.

The broader, purported goal of the US government's perpetuation of the embargo has been to isolate the Communist government and catalyze democratic reforms. But critics contend that the embargo is antiquated and ineffective, and has only served to increase the suffering of Cubans while providing the authoritarian government with a convenient scapegoat for the country's economic woes.

Read the original article on Business Insider