Biden’s lack of movement on Cuba, basically leaving things as they were under Trump, is absolutely 100% unacceptable and I am pretty disgusted by it.
When the administrations of Barack Obama and Raúl Castro charted a new course toward Cuba-US diplomatic relations, there was hope that an end to the embargo was on the horizon. President Obama engaged the Cuban government to establish full diplomatic relations, eased restrictions on travel and remittances, removed Cuba from the state sponsors of terror list, and expanded US exports to the nation.
All of this progress was undone by the Trump administration, which tightened sanctions on Cuba in the middle of the pandemic. On top of that, it pressured US allies in Latin America, notably Brazil and Bolivia, to expel Cuban doctors. There is no doubt that these decisions cost lives.
On the first day of the new administration, President Biden issued a national security directive calling for a review of the impact of sanctions on the response to the pandemic, with an eye toward offering relief. Hope for a sensible US policy toward Cuba was once again kindled. Now, almost half a year into the Biden administration, the Trump-era policies of “maximum pressure” remain in place. The White House has made it clear that improving Cuba-US relations—and with them, the daily lives of the Cuban people—is not a priority. Hope is quickly turning to indignation among US and Cuban citizens alike who believed Biden’s promises to reverse the Trump administration’s policy of threats, interference in Cuban internal affairs, and obstruction of access to basic human needs.
The Biden administration is facing mounting pressure from Congress to take decisive action and put us on a path toward peace and friendly relations with Cuba. In March, 80 US congressional representatives sent a letter to the president, urging him to reverse the Trump administration’s policies. More than 100 organizations, from the American Public Health Organization to Amnesty International, made a similar request to Biden. On the grassroots level, activists have organized monthly car caravans in over a dozen cities to demand an end to the embargo. Civil society organizations and social movements have raised over $400,000 to send syringes to Cuba.
If human rights are to be a core pillar of US policy, as a White House spokesperson recently declared, then the embargo must end. It is a policy that indiscriminately targets and harms civilians. It is a systematic violation of human rights on a massive scale.
The Cuba embargo is one of the biggest foreign policy failures in American history. If you want to change Cuba, you flood it with American money. That was already happening under Obama. Trust me, Cubans like American goods. They like American dollars. They like access to better food than they can get under the government subsidies. They like Nikes. They like leather jackets. They like the same things everyone else likes. It was already starting to make a difference. Then Trump put a stop to it because of the Florida gusanos who still think that cutting off ties to the regime will make a difference, sixty years of failure notwithstanding. That Biden is just continuing that policy–seemingly not wanting to offend Bob Menendez who has regained his powerful position at the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee–is a human rights failure. It’s also a foreign policy failure. It does nothing but make the Cuban people suffer. And if the policy ping-pongs back and forth based on which party is in power, well, so what? How is that different than everything from labor to environment to consumer regulations to everything else in Washington. It’s a disastrous way to run a government, but not doing anything is even more disastrous.
I am extremely frustrated with Biden’s bad foreign policy decisions. This is perhaps the worst so far. Biden needs to go back to the Obama positions on Cuba.