Experts provide clues on Biden’s new policy on Cuba

MIAMI – U.S. President Joe Biden had yet to make any announcements about his policy on Cuba on Thursday, but experts said that although there will be changes on the old administration’s approach, the supporters of the U.S. embargo should not fret.

Two officials in Biden’s administration said Cuba’s support of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela and the Cuban military’s control are defining issues, according to John Kavulich, the president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, a private organization based out of New York.

“The Biden administration will not be rescuing Cuba from problems of its own making ... We don’t anticipate decisions to enhance the role of the Cuban government in supporting their tourism sector,” said the official, according to Kavulich, adding that the approach to Venezuela and Cuba will be “based upon communication rather than isolation.”

Wearing masks and plastic gloves amid the spread of the new coronavirus, girls raise her hands during class in Havana, Cuba, Nov. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Cuba’s tourism industry dependant economy has suffered amid the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on travel worldwide. Most recently, the state-run centralized economy shifted to get rid of the dual currency system and inflation has been one of the repercussions.

Former President Donald Trump’s support of the embargo made it difficult for Cubans in the U.S. to send money to relatives back on the island and limited travel. It was a policy that most Cuban exiles in Florida celebrated because it targets the income of those who are accused of violating human rights.

When Biden served as vice president, former President Barack Obama reopened the U.S. embassy in Havana, but Trump closed it after several diplomats suffered mysterious symptoms. This resulted in Cubans having to travel to Guyana to apply for a U.S. visa.

A little girl gets a rapid COVID-19 test at the airport in Havana on Nov. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Andy Gomez, professor emeritus of Cuban studies at the University of Miami and author of “Social Challenges Facing Cuba,” is expecting Biden to reopen the U.S. embassy. Biden’s policy should not focus on Cuban exiles’ politics; it will prioritize U.S. interests and national security, Gomez said.

“I do not expect that the Biden administration is going to go back to the Obama old policies,” Gomez said.

Sen. Marco Rubio recently questioned Tony Blinken, Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State, about his position on the sanctions Trump imposed on Cuba’s military-controlled conglomerate GAESA.

“Certainly the objectives strike me as the right one,” said Blinken, who added that if confirmed he welcomed the opportunity to talk to the committee about the issue.

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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.