President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Xavier Becerra, reportedly rejected a request from a human rights organization to bring humanitarian aid to Cuba during a trip that he took to the communist nation in 1996 to meet with dictator Fidel Castro.
“Before Xavier Becerra’s trip as part of a ‘fact-finding’ congressional delegation to Cuba, the former California lawmaker was asked by Freedom House to bring an aid package including medicine and coloring books for the Cuban people,” The Washington Free Beacon reported. “Becerra refused, according to a December 1996 column by journalist and author Robert Novak.”
The column stated:
Two California members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus declined a request from Freedom House, the respected organization supporting democracy worldwide, to carry medicine and published material on their recent ‘fact-finding’ visit to communist Cuba.
The visit was made by by Reps. Xavier Becerra and Esteban Edward Torres. The materials they were asked to distribute contained no anti-Castro propaganda but publications as inoffensive as a Christian coloring book for children.
The congressmen themselves did not respond to repeated requests by this column to explain their decision, and their aides said they had no answer. Both Becerra and Torres oppose the long-standing embargo against Fidel Castro’s regime and are regarded as hostile to the to the Cuban-American community.
The trip came as Becerra was running to lead the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a race that he eventually won. After he won, all Republican members who paid dues to the caucus quit.
“The issue was not going to Cuba, the issue was going and not saying anything,” Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) said at the time. “He flouted his disregard for our deeply held views on what for us is an ultimately sensitive issue.”
The Miami Herald reported in January 1997 that Becerra’s trip to Cuba was organized by Alicia Torres, whom the Free Beacon described as a “pro-Castro activist.” The Miami Herald reported that Becerra met with Castro for four hours one night and had dinner with the murderous dictator.
The Free Beacon added:
Even Becerra’s fellow Democrats questioned his motivations at the time of his trip. Then-congressman Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said that Becerra “didn’t give me an indication that he was going there to challenge the dictatorship,” adding that “it seemed to me his focus was more on finding ways to justify his view that U.S. policy is wrong.” Bringing American supplies to Cuba would have undercut Becerra’s pro-Castro perspective.
Becerra has faced intense questioning during his confirmation hearings for his actions as California’s attorney general, which he made false claims about during the hearings, and has been grilled by local media publications.
The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Editorial Board said it was “difficult to grasp” why Biden tapped Becerra to lead HHS during a pandemic considering the fact that Becerra has “no public health experience” and that Becerra has been “a sharp disappointment” as California’s attorney general. The editorial board added that Becerra also engaged in the “ugly tradition of state attorneys general writing grossly misleading ballot language on propositions put before voters.”
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