It was known that Biden was not going to be Obama with Cuba. And that lifting Trump's sanctions and resuming the policy of rapprochement of the former Democratic president could take time. But no one imagined that things could go so wrong. Almost five months after his arrival in the White House, not a single one of the 240 measures to intensify the embargo adopted by Trump has been lifted. Washington's reproaches for the human rights situation on the island are on the rise, and the new Administration has just said that Havana does not fully collaborate with Washington in the fight against terrorism, which is why it will remain on its black list. The reaction of the Cuban Foreign Ministry was immediate: "It is a totally unfounded accusation and used for political purposes, which tries to justify the aggressions against Cuba, including the inhuman economic, commercial and financial blockade suffered by our people." Little remains of the initial expectations. Day by day we return to the bitter rhetoric of the Trump era, and Obama's normalization is no longer spoken: for Cuba, Biden is the present and the past.
In recent weeks, diplomatic scuffles between the two countries have multiplied. On May 4, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during the 51st Conference of the Council of the Americas that his country "will condemn the repression of human rights on the island" and will defend "the human rights of the Cuban people. , including the right to freedom of expression and assembly ”. The Cuban Minister of Foreign Relations, Bruno Rodríguez, responded hours later: “If Secretary Blinken were interested in the human rights of Cubans, he would lift the blockade and the 243 measures applied by the previous Government, in force today in the midst of the covid- 19. It would reestablish consular services and family reunification ”.
Last week, as a result of the hunger strike of dissident artist and activist Luís Manuel Otero Alcántara and his forcible transfer to a hospital in Havana – where he had been admitted and isolated for almost four weeks – and the subsequent arrest of the opposition rapper Maykel Osorbo, the State Department's Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Julie ChungHe said that the United States rejected "the detention of artists for exercising their freedom of expression." "The Cuban government cannot silence its critics by violating their human rights," added the official, calling for the "immediate release" of the two members of the so-called San Isidro Movement. This time, the US Deputy Director General of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Johana Tablada, answered, considering Chung's pronouncement "openly demagogic and interfering" and a "simulacrum of concern for human rights, while hiding the true purposes of the US government." “The United States is not concerned with the people of Cuba and it is not even concerned with those Cuban citizens who are systematically financed, oriented and promoted with high visibility to fabricate illegal actions of destabilization and generate a false image of Cuba, pretexts with which which tries to justify its criminal policy of economic blockade, ”said Tablada.
To make matters worse, this week Washington designated Cuba, along with Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela, among the countries that "do not cooperate" at all in its "anti-terrorism efforts", which would justify keeping the island in its list of states sponsors of terrorism, in which Trump included it nine days before leaving the White House, a final sanction with the aim of obstructing any possible approach to Havana. "The calumny and that (the Biden administration) applies Trump's policy is surprising and annoyed," Rodríguez countered.
The American academic William Leogrande recalls that Joe Biden supported Obama's opening to Cuba when he was his vice president and promised during the 2020 campaign to resume the commitment. “But the first signs from administration officials indicate that there is an internal debate taking place between those who are in favor of returning to the Obama policy, and those who would continue with the policy of pressure, leaving many of the Trump sanctions. instead ”, he points out in a recent work.
In recent months, several congressmen and senators from both parties have registered various legislative initiatives, for and against, easing the embargo. Lobbying is growing, and key to it is the position of important Democratic Senator Bob Menéndez, chairman of the upper house foreign relations committee, committed to a hard line towards Cuba. In recent days, Menéndez and Republican Senator Marco Rubio (who acted as Trump's pillar in his sanctions policy against the island) presented a proposal to prohibit the US courts from recognizing rights to a person or a company over a trademark that it has been "confiscated by the Cuban regime." One more line to the tiger. At the same time, the NGO Oxfam asked the US to "act as soon as possible to normalize relations with Cuba" and lift sanctions for humanitarian issues, recalling that of the 243 measures adopted by Trump, 55 were dictated during the pandemic.
The debate on what Biden should do in relation to Cuba is open in the US Prestigious think tanks, such as the Council for Democracy in the Americas (CDA), the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) or the Cuba Study Group (CSG) have requested in various documents the new administration to give priority to the Cuban issue and reestablish the policy of approach and critical engagement of Obama. But at the moment nothing. In the difficult game of balances of power in Washington, Leogrande observes, "it is possible that internal political benefits will be obtained if the status quo is maintained," but this will not produce anything "positive" in foreign policy, he believes. “An effective policy toward Cuba requires a realistic mindset that recognizes, once and for all, Washington's inability to impose its will on Cuba. Policy makers must abandon the illusion that sanctions will bring victory, and go to work with a regime that we may not like, but that is not going to disappear anytime soon. The other is to continue with the same policy of pressure from 60 years ago that has demonstrated its failure and fuels the psychology of a besieged plaza in the Cuban government. And in the middle, as always, ordinary Cubans are the losers.
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