[Photo Credit: Bill Hackell]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 22, 2023
Media Contact: Melissa Garriga | [email protected]
Three Activists Arrested After Taking Over the Corrupt Senator Menendez’s Office
"Cuba, Si! Menendez, No!"
WASHINGTON– Activists with CODEPINK, National Network on Cuba and the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization/Pastors for Peace took over Senator Bob Menendez’s office Wednesday morning after being refused a meeting with the New Jersey senator. The coalition demands the Senator step down from his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs committee due to his authoritarian and unpopular position on Cuba as well as his well-documented corruption.
“Senator Bob Menendez, a pro-embargo Democrat from New Jersey is holding Cuba policy hostage. He leverages his role as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and his Cuban heritage to advocate for harsh policies against Cuba.” said Samantha Wherry, CODEPINK Latin America organizer.
After being told to leave the office, some participants sat down in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. Three activists refused to leave until they met with Menendez, as they sat in defiance holding their signs that read:
“Cuba, Si!, Menendez, No!,” “ “Menendez, Let Cuba Live!, and “Abajo el Bloqueo.”
Police were called to the office and all three activists were arrested and detained.
[Photo Credit: Bill Hackell]
Calla Walsh, co-chair of the National Network on Cuba, who was one of the three arrested after refusing to leave Menendez’s office explains, “Bob Menendez cannot claim to support the Cuban people while he upholds this genocidal blockade and thwarts even efforts from within his own party to normalize US-Cuba relations. Clearly he would rather arrest us than have an honest conversation about the impacts of US sanctions on Cuban people. A crook like Menendez has no place in Senate leadership or anywhere in our democracy.”
In May of this year, 21 House Democrats requested President Biden to lift sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela to reduce migration to the US borders. Instead of joining his colleagues', Senator Bob Menendez sent a letter to the representatives "vehemently" disagreeing with their demands while pushing the narrative that U.S. sanctions are not behind the worsened economic conditions in Cuba and Venezuela, despite growing consensus that economic sanctions force people to migrate.
“Rather than rejecting Trump’s increased sanctions and the illegitimate designation on Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, Menendez clings to a 60-year failed policy of regime change that prolongs the agony of a resource-poor island nation of 11 million people.” said Michelle Ellner, CODEPINK Latin America organizer.
Despite support for the normalization of US-Cuban relations by many democrats and even some republicans, Senator Menendez often stands in the way of his own party to advocate self-serving policies that demonize Cuba and vilifies anyone who disagrees with him.
During Obama's presidency, Menendez actively opposed his efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, causing tension within the party. Menendez’s hawkish policies contradict popular opinion of lifting restrictions on Cuba and our national interest in establishing peaceful and productive relations with our neighboring country.
In addition to being a Cuba hawk, Senator Menendez is well-known for his unethical behavior. The Senator is under federal criminal investigation for the second time in 5 years for improperly taking cash and gifts in exchange for political favors. He was previously indicted on bribery charges in 2015.
Senator Menendez’s second federal investigation in five years and his commitment to undermining cooperation efforts with our neighbor raises concerns about his ethical fitness. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee should not be led by someone with questionable ethics and hawkish positions. We need a Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who will take this position with strong moral character and peaceful policies.