US-Cuba relations: Biden will rescind some of Trump’s limits, but not all, expert says

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.

FILE - In this March 21, 2016, file photo, Cuban President Raul Castro, right, lifts up the arm of President Barack Obama at the conclusion of their joint news conference at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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“You might see some of the more recent Trump policy be rescinded," Gómez said.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.

Yosmay Bicet stares at his mobile phone on Saturday, Nov. 7, in Havana. (Photo AP/Ramon Espinosa) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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.

A couple wearing masks as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus walk on the Malecon seawall at sunset in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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.

FILE - In this Oct. 22, 2020 file photo Cristobal Marquez, owner of "Cristobal's," the restaurant where Michelle and Barak Obama had lunch during their visit to Cuba in 2016, shows the book made by White House photographer Pete Souza, in Havana, Cuba. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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."

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.