President Joe Biden’s campaign promises to return U.S. relations with Cuba to where former President Barack Obama left them failed to materialize during his first year in the White House.
Biden assured that he would “reverse Trump’s failed policies that have caused harm to Cubans and their families,” in a September 2020 interview with NBC Miami.
Early in her tenure, however, expectations were lowered somewhat after press secretary Jen Psaki admitted to reporters that. Cuba was not “one of the top priorities.” of the United States.
And indeed, a year has passed since won the election and reached the White House and so far made no progress on issues such as restoring family remittances, nor did he reopen the consular services interrupted by Trump, a move in response to the notorious “Havana Syndrome.”.
Biden has also not allowed U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba under a broad category of permits that justified travel to the island-prohibited by the more than six-decade economic embargo-that were allowed in the Obama era but abolished by Trump.
Why did the Democratic leader put the brakes on his direction toward opening relations with Cuba’s communist government? What weight does the current human rights situation have in the decision for Washington to continue implementing punitive measures against the government of Miguel Díaz-Canel?
The mass protests of July 11, 2021 were a watershed in the history of popular discontent on the island. Human rights organizations have put the number of people arrested after the demonstrations at more than 1,000, hundreds of people imprisoned and dozens of citizens on trial or awaiting criminal proceedings.
In November of last year, White House spokeswoman Emily Mendrala confirmed that the Biden administration was taking steps in the context of the protests to “hold Havana accountable” while providing “support for the Cuban people.”
“President Biden has directed us to take certain steps toward Cuba, specifically after the July 11 protests (…) steps that promote accountability for abuses that we saw on July 11 and the days that followed. We saw violence, arrests, detentions. Now we see sentences of 15 to 30 years for people who simply took to the streets to use their voice and petition their own government,” Mendrala told the VOA.
Read also : “I declared myself a human rights activist because of the injustice”: mother of teenage political prisoner in Cuba.
Experts consulted by the Voice of America explain key aspects of the Biden administration’s foreign policy toward Cuba this year.[Kamala]Harris.
1-On support for the Cuban people.
“There is an unknown quantity,” he explains to the VOA political analyst Mateo Haydar, who assists the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC with his research on Latin America.
Haydar believes that President Biden has had to maintain, not only in Cuba but in the issue of freedom in the region, a policy of “lowering the temperature” to the human rights approach, “but on the one hand he has to maintain certain restrictions.”
Seen in this light, Haydar emphasizes, “the clearest example we all know is the Internet issue. The Biden administration has been, almost a year now I think, promising that he is going to look for a solution to the Internet issue in Cuba, or talking about the Internet issue in Cuba, and he has simply not really given importance to the issue to find a real solution”.
After the events of 11J, the White House showed solidarity with the detainees and issued sanctions to high-ranking Cuban government officials, however, these measures are not enough, he believes.
“What we see after there is that no additional tools have been offered to limit the regime’s capacity. And on the other hand, to empower communication in free expression among the forces of freedom in Cuba,” he concludes.
2-A plan of measures
The Biden-Harris Administration reported after the first few months that it was maintaining. “reviewing Cuba policy.”. He then clarified that others were his “main priorities”.
By late summer, the Cuban government’s repressive actions against protesters forced the White House to announce a series of steps that moved it away from any reconciliation with Havana.
Following the events of the summer protests, public condemnations of censorship and repression, sanctions against senior military commanders, and adherence to statements rejecting human rights violations were not long in coming, but set Washington on a path toward deepening the rift between the governments.
Analyst Fulton Armstrong, who has served several terms for his knowledge of the region, both in the Senate and in the executive branch, believes that Biden has lacked advice on the Cuban issue.
“I’ve been a little disappointed that his team has not provided him with the necessary information and analysis, on strategies on foreign affairs, but also on political issues to achieve and to pursue the policies that he was supporting when President Biden was vice president [en el gobierno de Barack Obama]”, he points out.
For Armstrong, who currently works at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University in Washington DC, there was a strategic error in addressing the July 11 protests in Cuba.
“I think the administration did not understand what was happening on the island, that yes, there were demonstrations, that yes it was a demonstration to a certain extent showing the interests and concerns of the people, but also the administration got into a certain type of triumphalism thinking that they were finally going to achieve their great goal of regime change,” he concluded.
Senators and representatives, mainly Republicans, launched their strategies, trying to go down a different path from that dictated by the White House.
Representative (R-FL) María Elvira Salazar and Senator (R-FL) Mario Díaz-Balart have pushed the legislative bills. “Operation Starfall.” y ‘Homeland and Life’respectively, proposing to offer free Internet to the Cuban people.
6-Human rights as a “partisan issue”.
At the request of comments from the VOA, the representative (R-FL) María Elvira Salazar agreed with analyst Haydar that the measures taken against Havana are not enough.
“This administration has not taken stronger action against the regime because of the left’s persistent sympathy for the oppressors of the Cuban people. Unfortunately, human rights in Cuba have become a partisan issue for this administration,” he said.
Salazar singled out Havana for having “inexcusably sentenced children as young as 17 to long sentences and torture for marching peacefully in the streets” and in that regard extended the demands of the Cuban exile community to the Democratic administration.
“We cannot be soft on dictators, especially those who murder their people and conspire against the United States,” he said.
7-Reactions of the Cuban government
Every now and then, the Havana government responds by accusing Washington of interfering in the country’s internal affairs or financing critical voices of the opposition.
The issue of the economic embargo on the island, which dates back to February 1962, is a bone of contention that Havana brings up in any political dispute between the two shores. Opponents of the Havana government believe that the embargo is a pretext to justify years of mismanagement and failures of the socialist system installed decades ago in Havana.
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