Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden slammed President Donald Trump’s “failed” policies on Cuba and Venezuela during an interview with NBC’s local Miami station that aired on Sunday.
“I’d try to reverse the failed Trump policies that inflicted harm on Cubans and their families,” said Biden, adding 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.”
Biden called Cuban Americans “the best ambassadors for freedom in Cuba” and said he would ease travel restrictions to the island and limits on remittances that Cuban Americans send their families, which were policies tightened by the Trump administration.
Biden said he would return to the Obama-era policy of greater engagement with Cuba during an interview with the CBS Miami station. This time, he said he would pursue a policy of advancing the interests “and empowering the Cuban people to freely determine their own outcome, their own future.”
He emphasized human rights and said the “crackdown on Cubans by the regime has gotten worse under Trump, not better.”
“Like I did as vice president, I’d demand the release of all political prisoners, continue to be an advocate for human rights,” said Biden.
Biden called for the release of one of Cuba’s most prominent dissidents, José Daniel Ferrer, who was jailed for six months, and in April, sentenced to 4 1/2 years under house arrest for assault and kidnapping. Amnesty International has called him a prisoner of conscience.
Ferrer’s arrest was at the center of a dispute between Washington and Havana. Biden said he is “deeply concerned about the unjust determination of how he’s treated—a voice for change in Cuba, by the Cuban government.”
Biden also accused Cuba of contributing to the “political impasse” in Venezuela along with Russia and China. “What is the president doing?” said Biden.
On Venezuela, Biden called Trump’s policy toward the South American country “an abject failure” and said, “Maduro has gotten stronger.”
“Venezuelan people are worse off, living in one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. The country’s no closer to a free election, and Trump’s, Trump’s incoherent approach is alienating international partners,” said Biden.
Biden said that as president he would extend Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans. The Trump administration has not granted the designation to Venezuelans, which would give them the ability to live and work legally in the U.S. He said Venezuelan asylum seekers are treated as a burden to the immigration system rather than considering their political pressure to flee.
In the past, Biden has criticized Trump’s comments about being open to meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
“I always say, you lose very little with meetings,” said Trump in the June interview.
Biden did not outline any specific policy towards Venezuela, but in response to questions on Latin America by Americas Quarterly in March, he said the U.S. “should not be in the business of regime change” and “the overriding goal in Venezuela must be to press for a democratic outcome through free and fair elections.”
Florida, with robust Cuban American and Venezuelan populations, is the biggest prize of the battleground states and one Trump must win in order to be reelected. The Trump campaign has touted its hardline policies toward the two countries as part of its strategy to appeal to the state’s voters.