Biden’s Measures Toward Cuba: Not Enough

By Alejandra Garcia and Gustavo A Maranges on May 17, 2022 from Havana

like the virus, the US blockade isolates. photo: Bill Hackwell

On May 16, the United States’ government announced some cosmetic changes in its foreign policy towards Cuba. The decision came after five years of the harshest enforcement of the blockade ever seen, first during the Donald Trump-Era, and then maintained to the maximum by the Joe Biden administration. Not even the COVID-19 pandemic was reason enough to relax the sanctions, a pledge made by the Democratic ruler during his election campaign in 2020. Instead, they decided to push as hard as they could to strangle the Cuban people in the hopes that it would direct their anger against its revolutionary government.

The White House decided to ease some restrictions to pose themselves as the ambassadors of goodwill towards Cubans after decades of economic blockade that created an overwhelming shortage of supplies, especially amid the health crisis.

We cannot deny that this is good news, as those who have closely followed the historic relations between the two countries agree. It shows that the will of the Cuban people to remain sovereign and independent until the last consequences do yield results.

The State Department announced they will resume the Cuban Family Reunification Parole (CFRP), so families from both sides of the Florida strait can reunite with their relatives. To foster this policy in the two directions, Washington will ease the conditions for Cuban-Americans to visit their relatives in Cuba.

The Biden administration also assured that the US consulate in Havana will increase the granting of visas for Cuban immigrants, although the embassy in Georgetown (Guyana) will continue to be the main issuer of this type of permits.

Scheduled and charter flights will be able to land at other airports beyond Jose Marti International Airport in Havana. Although it remains unknown what the new destinies will be, it is a positive step to promoting more and better relationships between both peoples. In the same line, the people-to-people travel category issued during the Barack Obama-Era will be back again, but only for group travels and research and professional meetings.

So far, all these measures have an evident migratory component. Thus, we can read between the lines that this announcement has a lot to do with the April 21st migratory talks and the US intentions to reduce the number of Cubans entering the southern border. It has also a lot to do with the IX Summit of the Americas to be held in Los Angeles next June, where migration is one of the main issues to be addressed, and Cuba, although having a lot to say about it, has not been invited yet.

Therefore, none of Biden’s decisions can be considered as some sort of imperial charity. He owed them to the Cuban people and to the US voters, as he promised during his electoral campaign during 2020.

However, it is not enough. The White House still needs to re-staff the Consulate in Havana once and for all so that it can process all types of visas for Cubans. It also must unblock individual travel from his country to this Caribbean island. Why does Biden need to ban US citizens from traveling to Cuba to see our reality with their own eyes? Is he afraid they might see just how cruel and inhumane the blockade really is?

The United States insists on hindering relations and rapprochement between the two peoples. Proof of this is that it has decided to maintain its diplomatic offices in Guyana as the main place where Cubans must go to apply for visas.

Cubans have to undergo an expensive and stressful journey, which gives them no guarantees that they will get a visa to reunite with their loved once they are able to get there. Meanwhile, the same process in Havana costs less than 100 USD per person.

The Biden administration also stated that he is going to allow unlimited family remittances and facilitate micro credits, training, and e-commerce access between US and Cuban private business. For that matter, some electronic payment avenues will be unblocked, along with some cloud technology and application programming interfaces.

These economic measures will do good for Cuban private businesses -if they actually come into force-. Our economy will be able to take a breath, but a very little one. State-ruled companies, which are the majority in the country, remain heavily sanctioned.

Besides, Cuba is still part of the countries that the State Department has unilaterally labeled “sponsor of terrorism.” Despite being a blatant lie, it hampers bank transactions from and to the island. On top of that, not a single enterprise was removed from the Cuba Restricted List. In other words, US entrepreneurs can’t make transactions with the island’s major banks, enterprises, and financial institutions.

All Cubans hope that Biden can find a free path to carry out these changes in the midst of the obstacles cheered on by the Miami ultra-right-wing. We also hope that he will go even further and have the courage to lift the blockade and stop trying to give us lessons in democracy amid the many problems he has to solve in his own country.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – English