Miami Mayor Francis Suarez says the U.S. should explore air strikes against Cuba, telling Fox News on Tuesday that “what should be contemplated right now is a coalition of potential military action in Cuba” similar to U.S. interventions in Panama and Yugoslavia under presidents from both parties.
Asked if he was suggesting air strikes in Cuba, the Cuban-American Republican responded: “What I’m suggesting is that option is one that has to be explored, and one that cannot be just simply discarded.”
Suarez, a Miami-born lawyer whose father was Miami’s first Cuban-born mayor, did not directly call for military action. But he said it should be considered, and pointed to past military interventions that included the killing of Osama Bin Laden with a U.S. air operation in Pakistan.
And, in an interview after the TV appearance, Suarez told the Miami Herald that he was told he’d receive a phone call from President Joe Biden after reaching out to the White House, and planned to ask the president to consider military intervention in Cuba.
The comments, made amid a wave of protests in Cuba and in Miami against the island’s communist regime, follow efforts by other Republican mayors in Miami-Dade to urge the White House to intervene in Cuba — calls that have prompted warnings against partisan saber-rattling.
“There should be a united front. This is not the time to score brownie points,” said Manny Diaz, a Cuban-American former Miami mayor who is now chairman of Florida’s Democratic Party. “The people in Cuba are the main actors here.”
On Monday, the Republican Cuban-American mayors from Doral, Hialeah, Hialeah Gardens, and Miami Lakes released an open letter that stated in part: “We ask that our nation intervenes to help the Cuban people break the chains that have kept them in shackles for so many years.”
Yioset De La Cruz, the Hialeah Gardens mayor, said intervention could include international sanctions or calls for regime change. “The first step should be to give the Cuban people some support,” said De La Cruz, 48, who left Cuba when he was 7. “And let them know they’re not alone.”
He also said that increased violence in Cuba shouldn’t go unchallenged.
“If they need to intervene militarily,” he said of a potential international coalition, “they should do so.”
Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid said he would leave it to Washington to determine the best method of intervention, but that the aim needs to be a new government. “It’s time for a change in Cuba,” he said. “It’s not time for negotiations.” J.C. Bermudez, mayor of Doral, said President Joe Biden needs to be clear that the United States “supports the people on the streets.”
In his Fox interview, Suarez was asked about a Twitter post by Ben Rhodes, a State Department leader under former President Barack Obama, who lifted many of the economic restrictions against Cuba. Obama’s successor, former President Donald Trump, reinstated the bulk of the restrictions, and Rhodes called on President Biden to lift a “cruel embargo.”
“I don’t think the embargo is cruel at all,” said Suarez, 43. “I think the Cuban people aren’t asking for a lifting of the embargo. They’re going out on the streets every single day talking about the failure of the communist regime to provide for its people… It has failed for six decades.”
“What should be contemplated right now is a coalition of potential military action in Cuba, similar to what has happened… in both Republican and Democrat administrations,” Suarez said, before referencing the 1989 invasion of Panama under President George H.W. Bush and U.S. air strikes in Yugoslavia as part of the NATO role in the Kosovo War in 1999. “They deposed Noriega and that country had peaceful democracy for decades… And President Clinton in Kosovo, intervening in a humanitarian issue with air strikes.”
Afterward, Suarez told the Miami Herald he was not advocating for air strikes or any specific form of military intervention, but some form of military mobilization should be seriously considered.
“I’m not a military expert,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and opine on what kind of military intervention should be used.”
Doug Hanks covers Miami-Dade government for the Herald. He’s worked at the paper for nearly 20 years, covering real estate, tourism and the economy before joining the Metro desk in 2014. Support my work with a digital subscription