Does U.S. Policy Towards Cuba Ever Really Change? By Iroel Sánchez
On June 29, 2021, the U.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, was interviewed by journalist Lucia Duraccio, of the Italian television channel RAI TG1, who asked him following the vote of condemnation by 189 countries of the U.S. blockade against Cuba, which had just happened for the 29th time in the UN General Assembly, why the nearby island was still the enemy and if the dialogue initiated by former President Obama was over for good.
Blinken replied that they were reviewing Cuba policy and that this had been delayed because they had a lot of work: the Covid vaccination, the return of the US to the Paris agreement on climate change, and the World Health Organization…and that “as a matter of basic principle, any policy we pursue will have democracy and human rights at its core”, and when the interviewer replied “but you talk to Saudi Arabia, to Turkey….” the answer was “we have never resisted dialogue anywhere”.
The truth is that the two elements raised by the Trump administration to reverse Obama’s policy, and which Biden has continued, had nothing to do with democracy and human rights, it was the made-up presence of more than twenty thousand Cuban militaries in Venezuela and the “sonic attacks” on U.S. diplomats. Five years later, there was not a single bit of proof to support those Trumpist accusations, and Blinken was off talking about Human Rights, while 243 Trump measures added to the blockade under those fallacious pretexts were torturing the Cuban people as never before in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic.
The arrival of fuel to the island and Cuba’s international financial transactions, including remittances, which to countries such as Mexico amount to 50 billion dollars a year, were limited as never before in the sixty years of blockade. Add to this the closing of the consulate in Havana, which prevents legal emigration with the aim of showing for propaganda purposes a “flight” of Cubans through irregular routes in Central America and the Straits of Florida, and to generate internal pressure with the discontent of those who must remain without traveling, living the shortages that the blockade seeks to create, and thus generate an outburst to overthrow the government.
But Biden had other priorities and, according to his Secretary of State, the policy towards Cuba was “under review” while the United States prevented the Cuban health system from transporting donations to face the pandemic and even blocked the purchase of artificial respirators in the name of Human Rights.
Less than two weeks after Blinken’s interview with RAI, between electricity and water cuts, serious shortages, and a pandemic peak that put the extended Cuban health system to the limit, a fierce campaign of psychological warfare through digital social networks began, financed by the US government, and in which agitators with a pro-Trump profile based in Miami played a central role, brought to the streets a protest that in many places, in agreement with its Miami instigators, turned into violence. Although the riots lasted little more than 24 hours, Blinken and Biden had the smokescreen to avoid having to answer more questions about the blockade and to please Trumpism without having to talk more about “Cuba policy review”.
Washington then pushed for an international condemnation that it did not get and pulled up stakes in the intoxication of Cubans on the Internet. Biden called Cuba a “failed state,” after doing everything to make it so. But the “failed state” controlled the pandemic with its own vaccines, effectively distributed solidarity shipments of food and sanitary supplies, and promoted transformations that, even facing enormous shortages and high inflation, allowed it to maintain political stability. Then the United States not only kept up the harassment but made a new bet and got involved in a “peaceful march” for November, which two months before had all the support in the digital social networks and the global media. The ridiculous failure in which the call ended, without any popular support and with the discredit of the organizers, left Washington without the internal subversion apparatus that it had been operating on the island since Obama’s time.
The dominant global press prefers not to talk about that but about the Cubans who, in the absence of a legal way to emigrate, and the debt of more than 80,000 visas not granted by the US consulate in Havana, seek irregular ways to reach the US borders, where a Cold War legislation grants them privileges that no other emigrant receives. An issue that made the United States make true was that “we do not resist dialogue anywhere” and resume the migration talks it had refused to hold with Cuba for years, both in Trump’s and Biden’s times.
Shortly thereafter, with a Republican speech that spurs the Biden administration on the immigration issue ahead of the congressional elections next November and a Summit of the Americas -the most important event for the United States in its region- on the verge of failure for not inviting Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, the policy towards the Island has left Miami to become a topic in the mainstream U.S. press.
It is the above context that may explain the May 16 announcement by the U.S. government in which it seems that they are abandoning the trend of increasing restrictions on non-relations with Cuba, although apparently not moving much in the opposite direction.
They promise to authorize flights between more cities on the Island and the U.S., today they are restricted to the Cuban capital, to grant more visas in their Havana consulate, although they say they will maintain the procedures in a third country, to authorize “educational” trips by U.S. citizens in groups subject to strict control of what they do and where they go, in addition to eliminating limits on remittances when all the companies that can do so in Cuba are on a “black list” from which they assure in the same communiqué they will not remove any of them. Quite a change.
All accompanied by “support” to the Cuban private sector in facilities with the use of the Internet, which has also been restricted since its emergence. And because “the Cuban people are facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis” which they, of course, did not want to create at all and they would have discovered it just now, when Cuban science has been able to defeat the pandemic, despite the efforts of the Trumpist-Bidenista sanctions to prevent them from doing so. The truth is the opposite: These measures have been announced because the Trumpist policy followed by Biden failed to create that “unprecedented humanitarian crisis” leading to the surrender of Cuba.
And even more: what can be said so far is that the change we hear so much about these days is neither voluntary nor radical, and it remains to be seen how much of a change it really is.
Source: La Pupila Insomne, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English