1996: Helms-Burton Act Against Cuba

As a senator, Joe Biden supported draconian sanctions against Cuba, but he changed his tune two decades later when he became vice president.

MIAMI, :  Emelia Fernandez, a Cuban-American, holds a Cuban flag as she protests against the new US Helms-Burton law 16 March in Miami. The Helms-Burton law is designed to tighten the US economic embargo on Cuba.   AFP PHOTO  Rhona WISE (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP via Getty Images)
Emelia Fernandez, a Cuban American, holds a Cuban flag as she protests against the Helms-Burton Act in Miami on March 16, 1996. Photo: Rhona Wise/AFP via Getty Images

In 1996, Joe Biden supported tightening the already devastating U.S. embargo on Cuba through the Helms-Burton Act, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, though he missed the vote. In addition to tightening economic sanctions against Cuba, it increased support for Cuban exile groups and made it official U.S. policy to support regime change in Cuba. In 2008, Biden stated that he was against “lifting the embargo until there is a response to political prisoners — all the things that are wrong with this Castro administration.” Later, as vice president, Biden backed away from his long-standing support for aggressive U.S.-Cuba policy and supported President Barack Obama’s efforts to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. When he ran for president in 2020, Biden said he supported ending trade and travel sanctions against Cuba and vowed to reverse President Donald Trump’s reversal of Obama-era efforts to normalize relations.

Join The Conversation