Apart from sanctions against oppressors, Joe Biden should implement measures to alleviate the situation of the Cuban people.
The new sanctions by the U.S. government against Cuba once again increase the pressure against the regime that governs the island, pushing its citizens into poverty and a lack of freedom, but do not in any way contribute to easing the situation faced by the Cuban people. Joe Biden’s government sanctioned the minister of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, Álvaro López Miera, and the Special National Brigade, also known as the “Boinas Negras” or “Black Berets,” as a result of the unbearable repression by the security forces after the protest demonstrations of July 11. Virtually at the same time, the regime in Cuba conducted a series of summary trials of dozens of people arrested during the protests, with sentences of up to one year in prison.
The position of the U.S. administration confirms that Biden’s arrival in the White House, as has also happened with his Castroist counterpart, Miguel Díaz-Canel, has not brought any change of previous policies, which foretells a castling* on both sides that will deepen the island’s tragedy. The pandemic has once again highlighted the needs of the population resulting from the failed system built by the regime and exacerbated by the U.S. embargo.
The protests, in turn, seem like a turning point to which the regime responds with more repression and stubbornness, if that is even possible. The cry for freedom demanded by Cubans on July 11 still echoes within and outside the island. For decades, the regime has not given any sign that, faced with any claim for democracy, it will respond in any way other than with repression.
Biden’s arrival in the White House, however, had brought a glimmer of hope that the United States would not follow Donald Trump’s unfortunate policy of tightening the measures, replicating a change that Biden is pursuing in other areas of foreign policy. Nonetheless, to the exasperation of Cubans, the first response is more castling.* The U.S. president needs to couple the recent sanctions imposed on those responsible for the repression with measures that aim to improve the situation of the Cuban people. Even without the support of Congress, meaningful actions can be taken. Washington talks about schemes to facilitate remittances, which is a positive idea. Biden was vice president when Barack Obama fostered a thaw that was accompanied by several initiatives with similar goals. A policy simply anchored in punishment will not contribute to improving the situation of a people who cry for hunger to end and for democracy and freedom.
*Translator’s note: I think the author’s term “castling” here may refer to what he thinks are Biden’s and Díaz-Canel’s stubbornness in their treatment of the existing measures and to their defensive and unproductive attitude toward one another, particularly on the part of Biden.