MIAMI – Cubans who saw tourism decline after President Donald Trump’s sanctions celebrated Joe Biden’s victory. Now there is anticipation about how the former vice president under President Barack Obama will handle U.S.-Cuba relations.
After Obama reopened the U.S. embassy in Havana, Trump closed it in response to several U.S. Department of State employees who were mysteriously injured. Trump’s retrograde from Obama’s detente also set limits on travel and remittances.
Andy Gómez is the former interim director of the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. And according to conversations he said he has had with Biden foreign policy advisers, there will be some adjustments.
“You might see some of the more recent Trump policy be rescinded," Gómez said.
The Nov. 15 reopening of the José Martí International Airport in Havana will allow cash to start flowing back, but it won’t be enough. Less help from Venezuela, a badly managed centrally planned economy, and the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic have Cuba facing deep economic troubles.
Cuba has a different bargaining position now than when Obama was president.
Before Trump, Obama and Cuba agreed on immigration. Obama ended a policy that welcomed Cuban refugees. Trump didn’t make any changes. Immigration attorneys say it’s likely that Biden won’t either. He may focus on the Cuban asylum seekers who are stranded in Mexico.
Obama also used executive actions to help promote Cuban entrepreneurship. Supporters of the policy aimed to create the foundation of a growing private sector on the Communist-run island. Trump didn’t believe in the strategy. It’s still unclear if Biden does.
Most Cubans want the U.S. to lift the embargo, and Cuban Americans in Miami have been divided on the subject for years. Regardless of how Biden perceives the embargo that President John F. Kennedy made official in 1962, only the U.S. Congress can lift it.
Former Congressman Joe Garcia, the director of the Cuban American National Foundation, supports purposeful travel to the island and scientific collaborations.
Garcia, a Democrat, said there is only a small window of time to come up with a new U.S.-Cuba policy since politics will get hot and heavy again during the next congressional elections.
Gómez doesn’t believe Congress will lift the U.S. embargo or that Biden’s Cuba policy will mimic Obama’s policy. He does believe there is room for diplomatic relations.
“I think the ball is really on Cuba’s court,” Gómez said, adding that his advice to the president-elect is to “wait until Cuba is willing to take the first step."