D.C. Council resolution: Cuba is a target, not a terrorist state
A man sits in his car's window wearing a T-shirt that reads in Spanish, 'Down with the blockade of Cuba,' while driving past the U.S. Embassy in Havana during a rally against the blockade on March 28, 2021. | Ramon Espinosa / AP

WASHINGTON—A group of local councilors in the District of Columbia is urging the Biden administration to remove Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List and lift the six-decade-old political and economic blockade of the island.

On Feb. 10, 2023, a resolution was introduced pushing for an end to anti-Cuban hostilities—PR25-0113, “Sense of the Council on the Restoration of Cuban American Relations Resolution of 2023.”

The resolution represents significant progress in the fight to end the U.S. government’s economic stranglehold and harassment of the Cuban people. So far, eight councilmembers have signaled support of the resolution, including Robert White (At-Large), Anita Bonds (At-Large), Kenyan McDuffie (At-Large), Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), Janeese Lewis-George (Ward 4), Zachary Parker (Ward 5), Charles Allen (Ward 6), and Vincent Gray (Ward 7).

Council Chair Phil Mendelson has also expressed support for the resolution, which shows that D.C. Council may become the next major metropolitan area to pass a resolution showing solidarity with Cuba.

A local coalition naming itself the D.C. Network to Normalize Relations with Cuba is being spearheaded by the National Network on Cuba and the Claudia Jones School for Political Education.

Other leading partners included local business Busboys & Poets, CODEPINK, the Alliance for Cuba Engagement and Respect (ACERE), the Democrat Socialists of America – International Committee, the U.S. Peace Council, and the D.C. Metro Coalition in Solidarity with the Cuban Revolution.

This coalition consists of many longtime peace activists, local organizers, small business owners, cultural workers, and more. They are hoping to push a strong movement around solidarity for Cuba to mobilize the D.C. community around issues related to the blockade that affect their tax dollars, medical access, and travel.

A local sign-on letter promoted by the coalition has already received over 30 organizational signatures to urge the entire council to vote in favor of the resolution.

Ever since the first unjust sanctions were imposed on Cuba by the U.S. by the Eisenhower administration in 1960, followed by the well-known blockade being imposed under the Kennedy administration in 1962, the issue of U.S.-Cuba relations has been omnipresent in both the U.S. and Cuban political spheres.

As delineated in a 1960 memo written by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lestor Mallory, the blockade, officially called an “embargo” by the U.S., never intended to help Cuban residents on the island, nor did it intend to exclusively target the leaders of the revolutionary movement.

The memo written by Mallory, whose title delineates “Subject: The Decline and Fall of Castro,” accentuates the principal objectives of the embargo. Among the points discussed by Mallory, the memo focused on the fact that Cuban leader Fidel Castro enjoyed wide support among the Cuban population (according to Mallory himself, the lowest estimate he had seen was about 50%), the fact that “militant opposition to Castro from without Cuba would only serve his cause,” and, the fifth and the chiefly macabre point of the memo, indicated that “the only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship.”

A short paragraph that followed further elucidated Mallory’s central argument: The only means by which the United States and its allies could bring about the downfall of the revolution by imposing hardship, the stagnation and decrease of real wages, and economic starvation on the Cuban people. The expectation was that a counterrevolution would eventually bring about the end of the Castro government.

Another brutal anti-Cuba policy enacted by the U.S. government was the strategy of “economic denial” adopted by the Johnson administration in the 1960s, which solicited help from the U.S.’ main allies, especially the member countries of the Organization of American States and NATO, to pressure Cuba. With the notable exception of Spain and Mexico, most of these countries cooperated and participated in favor of the U.S.’ imperial demands.

Furthermore, after the fall of the USSR and the socialist bloc of countries left Cuba with few trading partners and no financial, military, or political aid, the United States further reinforced its blockade with new measures. The moves hit Cuba when it was at the peak of its worst economic crisis since 1959.

Although there was a relaxation of sanctions under Obama, these policies were almost immediately followed by a Trump administration U-turn, which thrust new sanctions upon the Cuban people.

The blockade has caused, on average, a yearly net loss of more than $2 billion USD for Cuba, meaning nearly $135 billion has been denied from the island’s economy since the first sanctions were imposed under Eisenhower.

For these reasons, a majority of the countries in the United Nations General Assembly continue to vote—now more than 30 times—to call on the U.S. to end its embargo.

Within the United States, over the last few years, at least 67 resolutions have been passed by state legislatures, county and city councils, and school boards calling for an end to the 63-year-old blockade. D.C.’s resolution, if passed, will be the latest to put pressure on the government to end the brutal blockade and normalize relations with Cuba.


Adrian Torres-Trigo
Adrian Torres-Trigo

Adrian Torres-Trigo is a Puerto Rican student of Economics and International Affairs at George Washington University.

Gabriel Sebhatu
Gabriel Sebhatu

Gabriel Sebhatu writes from Washington D.C.