Imagine if a group of people regularly met with Xi Jinping, received widespread praise from Chinese state media and defended Beijing’s criminal actions here in America. Would you accept that group as a US registered nonprofit? No — you would immediately recognize it as a front for a foreign government’s influence campaign.
And you would expect our own government to do something about it.
Right now, we have a group that is clearly in bed with Cuba’s communist regime and doing the regime’s dirty work within our own borders. But instead of cracking down on that group, senior members of the Biden administration are granting it undue legitimacy.
“Puentes de Amor” or “Bridges of Love” is a left-wing organization registered in the United States as a nonprofit. Despite its sentimental name, the organization really exists to advance the goals of Cuba’s repressive dictatorship — around the world and in the United States.
Like allied groups Code Pink and the People’s Forum, Puentes de Amor advocates for the removal of sanctions against the Cuban regime. It also seeks Cuba’s delisting from America’s “state sponsors of terrorism” list. While President Obama granted that concession to appease Raúl Castro, President Trump rightly reversed it. Delisting Cuba again would only help the thugs in Havana and do nothing for the Cuban people.
In addition, Puentes de Amor spreads communist propaganda on behalf of the Cuban regime. On July 31, the group’s members staged a public celebration of the Cuban revolution in Miami-Dade County to demonstrate their allegiance to mass-murderer Fidel Castro and his successors.
It’s also obvious that Puentes de Amor’s leader, Carlos Lazo, has close ties to Havana. Cuban dictator Miguel Díaz-Canel routinely share photos of him and Lazo on social media and uses Lazo’s advocacy to bolster the lie that Cuban Americans favor going easy on his criminal regime.
Thugs like Díaz-Canel use the appearance of American support to strengthen their oppressive grip on citizens and legitimize their power abroad. US residents should never contribute to those efforts, and they certainly shouldn’t receive tax breaks for it. What Puentes de Amor is doing isn’t just wrong — it’s illegal.
Federal law prohibits anyone in the United States from acting under the direction of foreign governments unless they first register as a foreign agent. But Puentes de Amor is doing Havana’s bidding while claiming to be an ordinary nonprofit. This is clear cause for a federal investigation.
Thus far, the federal government has failed to intervene. On the contrary, a member of Biden’s State Department met with Puentes de Amor and posed for a photo with Lazo. That photo made its way onto Cuban state media and is now being used to support Díaz-Canel’s oppression against the Cuban people.
This is embarrassing and unacceptable. It’s why I wrote a letter to FBI Director Chris Wray urging him to investigate Puentes de Amor for its violation of US law.
Of course, Lazo denies having connections to the Cuban regime. He claims his group is a “humanitarian organization” with no political agenda. Regime apologists and Obama-era holdovers in the Biden administration will also resist efforts to crack down on Cuban influence campaigns. They’re more interested in cozying up to Latin America’s far left than furthering US interests or those of the Cuban people.
But no matter what they say — and no matter what ridiculous claims Lazo makes from his hideaway in Havana — it’s obvious that Puentes de Amor is attempting to sow dissension and confusion on American soil to strengthen a communist dictatorship. That makes “Bridges of Love” an organization of foreign agents. Our government is duty-bound to do something about it.
Sen. Marco Rubio is Florida’s senior US senator.