Press Advisory: CFC expresses deep gratitude to Congressman Sires for his leadership and human rights record on the news of his retirement.

Press Advisory

CFC expresses deep gratitude to Congressman Sires for his leadership and human rights record on the news of his retirement.

Contact: John Suarez, 612-367-6845

December 21, 2021

Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ)

The Center for a Free Cuba expresses deep gratitude for Congressman Albio Sires for his leadership and human rights record on the news of his retirement yesterday. Representative Albio Sires (D-NJ), a first-generation Cuban immigrant, announced on December 20, 2021 that he would not seek re-election and would serve out the remainder of his term. Congressman Sires will have served 16 years in the House of Representatives at the time of his retirement. He has been a reliable Democrat who has voted with his party 96.9 percent of the time in contested votes, according to CQ Vote Watch, but he has also been a steadfast defender of U.S. national security concerns, with a profound understanding of the dictatorship operating in Cuba. Congressman Sires has never forgotten his Cuban roots or the horrors of Castroism.

He and his family fled Cuba in January 1962 as the Castro-Communist dictatorship consolidated power. At an April 22, 2009 Congressional hearing while addressing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Representative Sires described his first-hand knowledge of Cuba under communism:

“I experienced, at the age of 11, how to take apart and put together a Czechoslovakian machine gun. I experienced the people knocking on my house door because they thought my father was carrying contraband on the black market. I remember the military coming to my house and taking inventory just before I left; and having lived in New Jersey with the mother of the sons that were killed on the plane as they were rescuing people leaving the totalitarian government.”

Over these 16 years ,he spoke with courage and principle, advocating economic sanctions on the Castro regime as a tool to leverage the Castro regime to open up. At a Congressional hearing on February 26, 2015, in the midst of President Obama’s normalization efforts with Havana, Congressman Sires made this case despite the White House having a different position at the time.

“I always felt that the embargo was a pressure point on Cuba, and that we would take the embargo off when we get some concessions, especially concessions that led to a free economy where people could move ahead, where people could have free elections, where you could actually have freedom of the press.”

On September 24, 2021, months after the massive protests that had shaken the communist dictatorship in Cuba and drawn the attention of the international community, Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, Migration, and International Economic Policy, issued the following statement demanding freedom for Cuban political prisoners:

“While the world’s attention has shifted elsewhere, the Cuban people continue to suffer under one of the world’s most repressive dictatorships. Over four hundred Cubans remain arbitrarily imprisoned by the Castro/Díaz-Canel dictatorship. More than 5,000 people were detained in the wake of the July protests. Their only crime was peacefully exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly. But in taking to the streets of dozens of cities to call for an end to the dictatorship, they shattered the last remnants of the regime’s illusion of an island utopia.”

In addition to Cuba, Representative Albio Sires has spoken out and advocated for legislation to advance human rights around the world in Burma, China, Hong Kong, Nicaragua, Tibet, Venezuela, and elsewhere.

“The Center expresses deep gratitude to Congressman Sires for his ongoing legacy of principled leadership and defense of human rights. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors,” said John Suarez, Center for a Free Cuba executive director.