New DC advocacy coalition ACERE

Aug 4, 2020 by

Dear friends,

Thank you for your incredible response and participation in this unprecedented 48-hour legislative advocacy effort to help Cuban families.

As you know, the people of Cuba have long been suffering under a brutal economic blockade that places restrictions on food, medicine, and even economic support from relatives. Due to Cuba’s effective response to the pandemic — including a defensive economic shutdown and the preventive halt on tourism — the economic situation has become even more grave.

 It was clear to groups engaged in legislative advocacy that few members of Congress seemed to be aware that this crisis was taking place, and that the U.S. economic blockade — which has been cruelly tightened by Trump — has had such a devastating impact on the Cuban people.

In just a period of days, you helped us change that. Rep. Bobby Rush, a longtime champion of normal relations with Cuba, stepped up and introduced two modest but important amendments to the Treasury-OFAC funding bill to prohibit enforcement of any sanctions related to food and medicine, and to prohibit enforcement of caps on remittances (which 56 percent of Cubans depend on, according to one recent study). Trump’s caps have been publicly opposed even by Democrats in South Florida, where hostility to Cuba and even normalization of relations has been the most intense.

Rep. Rush initially remained firm, which gave us a chance to focus on another consistent advocate for normal Cuba policy, Rep. Jim McGovern. As Chair of the Rules Committee, Rep. McGovern and his committee ultimately decide whether amendments receive a vote on the House floor. You helped generate thousands of calls, emails, petition signatures and social media posts in a period of 36 hours urging Rep. McGovern to let the amendments be voted on by the full House. His office lines were flooded and he was aware that people all over the country were watching him.

While Rep. Rush ultimately did withdraw the amendments, he has made public his intent to reintroduce them and to hold Members to their verbal commitments to him that they will work to seek bold change on US-Cuba policy in the near future. In response to Rush’s initiative and our pressure, Rep. McGovern said on the House floor, “If we can trade with China, Russia and Vietnam, then we should be able to trade with Cuba.  If we can travel anywhere in the world, then we should be able to travel to Cuba.  And if we care about human rights, we have to recognize the tremendous suffering we are causing the Cuban people through our policies. It’s time for a more sensible, thoughtful approach to Cuba, and I look forward to working to make that possible.”

Rep. McGovern has invited us to regroup and plan next steps. The offices of Members from south Florida also reached out directly to our coalition, expressing their regret and making similar commitments to work with us after the election.

 Now, more than ever, we realize that a broad-based, progressive coalition that includes rapid-response efforts and legislative advocacy for a respectful and common sense Cuba policy is absolutely essential.

 That is why we are creating a new coalition, and we want YOU to be a part of it. You helped get us closer to supporting Cuban families with basic necessities, and with your on-going support, we can do so much more.

Our new coalition is called the Alliance for Cuba Engagement and Respect, or ACERE (a play on one of the most commonly used words in Cuba “asere”, slang for “friend,, which has its origins in the African efik language). We hope many of the over 100 organizations that participated in this emergency effort will join the coalition. We will follow up with you next week to solicit your membership. In the meantime, read more here in yesterday’s National Interest article about the Rush amendments and the birth of ACERE. (“Progressives’ Next Foreign Policy Fight: Cuba Sanctions”).

 While the structure of ACERE will be more fully developed in the very near future, it will serve as an extension of, and complement to, existing Cuba work by providing DC-focused advocacy in support of coalition partner efforts and pushing for meaningful legislative reforms that will help improve the lives of Cubans and promote normalization of relations between our two countries.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions and stay tuned for more updates. Thank you for everything you do for the people of Cuba.

 Sincerely,

 Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, Past President, National Lawyers Guild

Medea Benjamin, Co-Director, CODEPINK

 Erik Sperling, Executive Director, Just Foreign Policy

 Arthur Heitzer, Chair, National Lawyers Guild Cuba Subcommittee; Wisconsin Coalition to Normalize Relations with Cuba

 José Pertierra, attorney specializing in international law

 Marilyn McKenna, Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America

 Alicia Jrapko, International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity

 Cole Harrison, Massachusetts Peace Action

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