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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Carlos Alberto Montaner: Biden and Cuba
Latin American genius and Cuban exile Carlos Alberto Montaner explores the issues president-elect Joe Biden has to consider in order to make any decision regarding Cuba.

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

The Havana regime is desperate. It pretends that Biden, when he begins to rule, gets it off the hook. Venezuela is knocked out. The crisis has no end and will worsen with each passing day. Relations with Russia are not good. Cuba does not have the money to pay its obligations with Moscow.

The circumstantial problem is the pandemic, but the underlying problem is the system. It doesn’t work. It has never worked in any latitude or with any kind of leaders. Simply put, when it comes to growth and innovation, there is no substitute for the private property and market system. The Chinese and the Vietnamese have proven it again. It is true they do not have democratic regimes, and that is a great calamity, but at least they have development. Cuba lacks development and freedoms and wants others to finance its mess.

I don’t think Biden will take the bait. At the moment, he has two contradictory messages on the table. One is from John S. Kavulich, the oldest of the pro-Cuba lobbyists in the United States, in which he promises him the earth if he lifts the embargo and the sanctions imposed by Trump, and proposes 15 names of as many individuals in American politics or the finance sector to serve as ambassadors in Cuba, individuals who would be more negotiators than diplomats.

The other message, published in The Sun Sentinel, is from two pro-Castro individuals, William M. LeoGrande from the American University and Peter Kornbluh from the National Security Archives. They warn the president-elect with their article in which the title could not be more clear: For Biden’s Cuba policy, quid pro quo incrementalism is doomed to fail. That means Biden should forget to ask the Cuban government to abandon Maduro or for moderation in its foreign policy, because the issue of the Cuban sovereignty cannot be touched with a ten-foot pole.

As a matter of fact, Joe Biden doesn’t have to make a hasty decision on the Cuban issue. The Cuban regime is the one that desperately needs the United States and not the other way around. The United States can wait and consider several substantial issues.

First, as Democrat John Kerry told Andrés Oppenheimer, a columnist of Miami Herald for CNN en Español and Miami Herald, it is true the Cuban regime had not acted as President Obama expected after the sincere openness offered by his administration. It intensified the repression within Cuba. Sending to jail José Daniel Ferrer, a famous Cuban dissident, among others.

Second, the situation in Cuba is not the same as in December 2014, when relations between the two countries were resumed Eric Farnsworth, VP of the Council of the Americas, said to journalist Nora Gámez in an article in The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. It’s not either the same as in 2016, when Obama traveled to Havana and delivered a formidable speech that earned him a very revealing attack by Castroism.

Third, not everything Donald Trump did was wrong. It was correct to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, revise the treaty with Iran and organize international support for the Venezuelan democratic opposition. In the same way, punishing the corrupt ones and the violators of human rights with personal sanctions, a practice that began with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, have broad support throughout the world and in American society.

Fourth, it is legitimate for Biden to try to conquer the State of Florida for the Democratic Party in the next election. Florida has 29 electoral votes. It is difficult this can be achieved without the support of Cubans, Venezuelans and Nicaraguans. In this sense, personal sanctions against human rights violators and the corrupt are plausible measures.

Fifth, ten presidents before him tried the quid pro quo. Even the Democrat Jimmy Carter proposed to the Cuban regime to abandon Africa in exchange for lifting the embargo. But at that time, Fidel Castro, the most tenacious of the anti-American rulers, was alive and ruling. Fidel no longer exists. Raúl hardly either, but the most important thing is that on the island there are very few defenders of a radically impoverishing system.

In any case, a great expert on US-Cuban relations wrote me something that left me thinking: “Trumpism measures and other previous ones could be unilaterally revised in light of concrete, verifiable and irreversible advances in the process of internal reforms in Cuba, undertaken by the Cuban government in the economic and civil rights field.” Before, he had told me the regime, if it wanted to open up, had a golden opportunity with the San Isidro Movement, a group of artists and musicians who protested against the repression.

That way, I suspect, the shots go.

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