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In a single move, President Biden just gave Cuba’s aging, creaky regime new oxygen to continue to exist, living on to oppress those who oppose it on the island.
It knocked the wind out of the Patria y Vida movement, which staged huge protests against the regime across the country last July.
And, apparently, none of this will necessarily lead to a free and democratic Cuba.
Monday, without counsel from South Florida’s Cuban-exile community or its congressional delegation, the Biden administration announced that it was gifting Cuba with a return to the Obama-era concessions, ended by President Trump.
Cuba’s repressive regime can party like its 2015 when President Obama announced he was reestablishing diplomatic ties with Cuba for the first time in decades. It was a historic move that we supported, with cautious optimism. However, that free and democratic Cuba we all hoped for never got any traction.
Now, with a return to those days, Cuba is regaining expanded travel to the island; remittances that families in the United States can send to their bereft relatives; and more family reunification. And Biden is offering an added perk: He’s paving the way for American companies to invest in Cuba, a work-around to the U.S. embargo on the island.
Did the president even bother to come to South Florida for the big announcement? Nope.
Cuban exiles diverge
He’s got to know that not all Cuban Americans feel the same about relations with Cuba. For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of exile politics, here’s a primer:
Older exiles, mainly those who left Cuba starting in the early 1960s because of Fidel Castro’s Communist takeover — commonly known as the “historic exiles” — have long believed that the United States should not deal with Cuba’s regime or offer any aid or assistance at all. Their fervent hope is to outlast the regime using the embargo, force it from power and free the 11 million Cubans on the island who exist in a world of deprivation in every aspect of their lives.
On the other hand, there are Cuban refugees who arrived in 1980 and later, and who want to visit and support their relatives on the island. They often travel back and forth, something a “historic exile” promises never to do until the regime is gone.
Biden’s actions will be welcomed by those more recent Cuban exiles.
Cuba is a conundrum for the United States.
We can’t argue with the humanitarian elements of this policy change to help Cubans who have struggled with harsh economic times following the pandemic and U.S. tourism plunged after Trump tightened a travel ban.
But why would Biden do this at this juncture? Could the Russia-Ukraine war play a role? Does Biden think that being friendly to Cuba will mean the island will end its decades-long ideological love affair with Russia? That would be naive.
Obama went down the same rosy path and, ultimately, found the Cuban government as unyielding as ever. Many historic Cuban exiles rejected Obama’s olive branch to Raul Castro. They warned it would be a one-way street. They were right.
Rubio pushes back
Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and other local Republican congressional lawmakers united in a statement blasting the Biden administration for ignoring the anti-government demonstration on the island on July 2021.
“Today, while hundreds of activists remain unlawfully imprisoned, the White House is resurrecting President Obama’s failed policy of unilateral concessions to the Castro/Díaz-Canel criminal dictatorship,” the lawmakers said.
“The Biden administration’s repeated appeasement to the Cuban dictatorship is a betrayal of America’s commitment to human rights and freedom and to the long-suffering Cuban people who are struggling for a genuine democratic transition,” the lawmakers added.
Unfortunately, we can’t argue with that, either.