Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Thursday ran into opposition from a prominent Florida Democrat after she called for the U.S. to end its embargo on Cuba, underlining divisions within the party on how to respond to the communist country’s recent upheaval.
“We also must name the U.S contribution to Cuban suffering: our sixty-year-old embargo,” Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) 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 publicly chastised the New York congresswoman’s position on Twitter, pointing to “failed policies of a communist regime that has violated human rights, imprisoned & killed dissidents.”
“This is a matter of national security. The US must act,” Mucarsel-Powell tweeted.
The starkly differing positions exemplify a split between progressive and moderate Democrats on the Cuban embargo. Ocasio-Cortez has risen to prominence in the House as part of a progressive coalition. Mucarsel-Powell, who has been advising House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Cuba policy, was ousted from her heavily Latino South Florida district in 2020, when Hispanic voters broke hard for Republicans as they pounded Democrats for being socialists. While Miami Democrats ran from the term, Ocasio-Cortez has aligned with Democratic socialists.
Cubans took to the streets in historic protests and demonstrations against the six-decade-old regime this past week, leading to hundreds of arrests.
President Joe Biden’s administration has been slow to react to the unrest despite urgent calls for action from both sides of the aisle.
Meanwhile, Florida Democrats see an opportunity for Biden to help bring democracy to Cuba and, as a result, attract the Hispanic voters who fled the party in the November election.
Biden on Thursday called Cuba a “failed state” in his sharpest recent comments on the island situated just 90 miles from Floridian shores.
Marc Caputo contributed to this report.