Cuban exodus after July 11 crackdown shaped new U.S. policy, expert says

Michael J. Bustamante said last year’s July 11 country-wide protests in Cuba and in South Florida were historic because nothing like it had happened in six decades.

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Michael J. Bustamante said last year’s July 11 country-wide protests in Cuba and in South Florida were historic because nothing like it had happened in six decades.

Bustamante is a University of Miami associate professor of history who focuses on Cuban and Cuban-American studies. He said nothing like it may happen for a while.

He said the protests happened at the height of the pandemic, and now that the Cuban government distributed vaccines and opened the borders the pressure has decreased.

“A historic exodus, really, that changed the calculus and the Biden administration decided that they needed to do something to try to alleviate some of the economic pressure,” Bustamante said.

Since October, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol reported that more than 140,000 Cuban migrants have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border and The U.S. Coast Guard has interdicted more than 3,000 Cuban migrants risking their lives in the Florida Straits.

“My bird’s eye view as a historian is that it’s actually not the United States that is going to change the future of Cuba,” Bustamante said. “Whether that’s a sanctions policy, whether that’s an ‘engagement policy.’”

President Joe Biden allowed talks about immigration enforcement agreements and restored consular services in Havana. Cubans started to allow the arrival of deportees from the U.S. Relations deteriorated after former President Donald Trump reversed former President Barack Obama’s policy.

“The United States sort of needs to take itself out of the game as the boogeyman,” Bustamante said, adding this would make it more difficult for the Cuban government to blame all of its problems on the U.S.

This Week In South Florida’s July 10 episode

Watch This Week In South Florida's July 10 episode with Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg.

Local 10 News’ Sarah Ramdin contributed to this report.


About the Authors:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."

Michael Putney came to Local 10 in 1989 to become senior political reporter and host of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." He is Local 10's senior political reporter.