The wind, which reminds us of a certain movie classic, also took the opportunity for US President Joe Biden to take advantage of 2022 and make bold differences in US policy towards Cuba. And we say “daring”, because what has been done in these twelve months is no more than timid actions, without transgressing the position imposed by the Florida-based Cuban-American politicians. The wind took away 2022 and all its electoral promises regarding our country. About the elements that characterized the doings of the White House towards Havana, we will talk today.
The year that’s coming to an end confirms that already consolidated trend that US policy towards Cuba it’s shaped in Washington, but written in Miami. No president in the last 64 years has been able to significantly alter that standard, not even those who have wielded solid control of the Senate and Congress, high approval ratings, or the charisma to break with long-standing norms. They haven’t been able to add a comma in their Constitution since 1787, what are we going expecting for Cuba! Therefore, Miami is not the only one to blame: the US executive branch has never been interested in normalizing its relationship with this Caribbean archipelago, let alone a weak and transitional leader like Biden.
But what has Biden done about Cuba? Nothing relevant. All very shallow. Let’s just remember that when he was Barack Obama’s vice president, both countries kept a much more relaxed relationship. In fact, Biden has only taken actions to dismantle some of Trump’s measures, always lightly. The respect the Democratic president has shown to the Cuba policy imposed by his Republican predecessor has even upset officials close to Obama. But let’s get down to business.
This year 2022, the relations of the United States towards Cuba continued to be characterized by problems and the politicization of the socioeconomic reality of our country, where a blockade that Washington insists on minimizing, but that it uses with increasing rigor to persecute economic, financial, and business activity of this island.
The report presented by Cuba at the beginning of November before the UN General Assembly, to condemn and demand the end of the blockade, and which was supported by almost the entire international community, contains plenty of examples of how this unilateral and genocidal instrument has escalated this year, even attacking sensitive areas and sectors such as public health and education, children and the elderly, and the right to quality of life (transportation, communication, energy, food, etc.) of an entire nation. The blockade continues to have a negative impact on the life of all Cubans, and on the humanism of the international community that condemns it year after year.
As if that were not enough, the subversion, sister of the blockade that acts as a magnet for “useful idiots”, also continues to rise. In the conclusions of the X regular session of the National Assembly, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez pointed out that throughout year 2022, the United States government was tolerant of those who guide, finance and train individuals from its territory to commit violent acts in our territory. There were plenty of examples of the latter, in actions against economic objectives and state institutions, openly stirred from social networks and paid for by Miami, in the background of which the intention to repeat scenarios such as that of 11J 2021 persists. Another subversion design continues to be financing alleged “popular leaders” who suspiciously do not last long in Cuba, and once a visa and residence is negotiated anywhere, they fall into oblivion. And all this with funds from the taxes of the American citizen.
As for diplomatic matters, Biden didn’t express a desire for changes either. One of the greatest scandals was in the decision of the United States not to invite Cuba, among other countries, to the IX Summit of the Americas that took place in Los Angeles in June. Segregating Cuba did not prevent it from being the protagonist of the event, as several leaders resigned from participating and others condemned, in their interventions, Washington’s misguided foreign policy towards the region. As a result, it was the summit with the least presence of heads of State or Government among the nine editions held; The greatest controversy encloses the fact that Cuba had already participated in the two previous summits, even when Obama and Donald Trump were presidents. To what did Biden’s political strategy of excluding Cuba from that Summit respond, without there being any objective in its domestic panorama that justified it? It’s a question that will never be answered because to think that this measure would have improved their chances of winning in Florida in the midterm elections does not fit into any logic of political analysis, as was evidenced last month when the Republicans swept on that state… by the way, these elections made it clear that the attention of Democrats towards the southernmost state of the nation, and consequently, any substantive change in their relationship with Cuba, will not be a priority as long as they manage to guarantee in other states of the region, similar number of the electoral votes they controlled in Florida.
Switching back to the level of diplomacy. The Summit of the Americas was not the only event from which Cuba was excluded due to indications from the United States. Since December 2021, the Undersecretary of State, Antony Blinken, marginalized us from the Summit for Democracy, what a contradiction! What can be less democratic than preventing everyone’s participation, right? And in April this year he did the same with a Ministerial Summit on Migration that Panama summoned. This case is much more contradictory, taking into account that Washington denounced a migratory crisis in Cuba, curiously, encouraged by the breach of bilateral agreements in this matter and by the obstruction to achieve a legal, safe and orderly migration. It was not until the end of the year that the United States decided to resume migratory exchanges with the island, even though it maintains many factors that stimulate irregular departures from Cuba, either by sea or through third borders. The cost of this policy was expressed month after month in human lives, victims of the double standard with which the White House favors the migrant of our nation.
One last example of the incoherence of US policy has been the inclusion of Cuba in illegitimate lists prepared by the empire’s unilateral criteria, without having any support or recognition from international organizations or institutions that support such rulings. Throughout the year, the Department of State kept us on a list of countries that sponsor terrorism (presumably because of the conflict in Colombia, even though Havana participates decisively in a peace process, whose parties recognize its leading role in the solution of the issue); and issued alerts to its citizens about alleged risks of traveling to Cuba. The last straw of that country, whose president has had to sign laws to protect homosexual and interracial marriage, and who could not defend the right of women to abortion, assumes with the moral capacity to include Cuba in a list of countries that don’t respect religious freedom, just when —watch out— El Rincón site was more crowded than the concert for the 50th anniversary of Nueva Trova.
But to be fair, this year the United States tried to introduce an image change in order to make up in benevolence and willingness to understanding. What happens is that it’s very difficult for someone who’s always been a wolf on sheep’s clothes; only like this can someone understand that Washington’s response to Cuba’s international call for help to control the fire at the Super Tanker Base in Matanzas was limited to “technical advice”, which was too late; or that after Hurricane Ian rammed the western region of the country, instead of lifting the blockade to help in the recovery, they understood that a donation of 2 million dollars was enough to do so. And both actions show signs of an evident willingness to collaborate with Cuba, but they are tiny actions given the potential impact of collaborating like Mexico and Venezuela did, or dismantling the hated blockade would have had in each case.
The US was left in a similar ridicule when, after spending years insisting that Cuba limits the right of its citizens to access Internet, the Department of Justice recently recommended the White House that this archipelago be prevented from accessing submarine cables that surround the island. If anything, the only thing Biden can boast of having made progress in the last year is having revoked some of Trump’s banning, such as regular direct flights and the sending of packages and remittances. Even so, the permitted level is far from what was attained in Obama’s time, and US tourism continues to have a forbidden paradise in Cuba.
It was also another year in which the United States lost favorable opportunities to strengthen relations in strategic areas for both parties, for example, scientific-medical development. It was not enough that prestigious academic institutions of that nation recognized the Cuban biopharmaceutical industry on several occasions, or that international organizations with authority and recognition did so, for the US government to stand down in its policy of marginalizing potential collaboration.
Under such conditions, we can summarize that 2022 was another year to be forgotten in the United States’ policy towards Cuba. Looking at 2023, nothing in the domestic panorama of that country suggests that significant change could take place that allows Biden to leave a legacy in this regard. On the contrary, as it’s a year before the presidential elections, it’s to be expected that the attention of the White House will be on domestic issues, where Cuba is not a priority. In addition, the impact of the electoral votes in Florida will continue to condition the policy towards Havana, according to the party color that predominates in that state, which is increasingly republican.
So, putting year 2022 in a scale, there’s little to highlight positively about the United States’ policy towards Cuba, and much to demand from Biden about his electoral promises and his commitment to his own party. The winds of a aggressive policy embedded in the failure of 64 years. It just brushed aside what could have been and never happened. What’s more distressing is that probably, in twelve months, we will be writing similar notes on the same subject: do not expect different winds.