Five years ago, as second lady of the United States, Jill Biden, traversed the cultural landscape of Cuba in the middle of what was then a thaw in relations, a process that since has been corrupted by coercive measures from Washington.
Amid photographers, walking tours of Havana’s historic center, and other activities in the central city of Camagüey, the agenda of the wife of Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice president and now the president, took shape.
During the official visit, from Oct. 6-9, 2016, Jill Biden met with government officials, entrepreneurs and prominent women in the areas of education, health and scientific research.
Biden, who holds a doctorate in education, also left time in her schedule to attend a friendly soccer match between the United States and Cuba, symbolic because it was the first match of its kind since 1947.
The process of normalizing diplomatic relations between the two countries, initiated in December 2014 during the administration of Barack Obama and Joe Biden (2009-2017), was apparently relegated to a point of no return by a stroke of President Donald Trump’s pen.
In June 2017, the New York businessman signed an executive order rolling back a directive by his predecessor and scrapping development of relations with Havana.
“I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba. I am announcing today a new policy, just as I promised during the campaign,” Trump said. He also announced restrictions on the flow of hard currency to the Caribbean country and rigid enforcement of the economic blockade.
More than 240 coercive measures tightening the noose around the neck of the Cuban people are the apparent legacy of the 45th president. They are part of a policy that Joe Biden promised to review during his presidential campaign.
Among the anti-Cuban provisions on Trump’s list were restrictions on travel by U.S. citizens and obstacles to foreign trade, exports and the sending of remittances. Trump’s policy also included smear campaigns and the suspension of flights to Cuban airports, with the exception of Havana.
Under the pretext of health incidents reported by U.S. diplomats here, U.S. consular services in Havana were suspended. A scientific cause for the reported injuries has not been determined, and State Department reports have revealed government mismanagement.
The decision to shutter consular services led to the suspension of the family reunification program and the issuance of visas for visits and orderly and safe migration. As a result, Cubans must travel to third countries to emigrate to the U.S., which increases the cost without any certainty that visas will be issued.
The inclusion of Cuba on the list of countries that allegedly sponsor terrorism was one of the latest and perhaps most symbolic measures taken by the U.S., because the current administration, despite promises to return to the status quo prior to June of 2017, has not reversed that designation. The U.S. has also not reversed Trump’s other decisions. On the contrary, Biden has continued to count the island among the countries that are allegedly uncooperative in with U.S. efforts in the region. And while President Biden is “reviewing” the policy toward his neighbor, he is soliciting millions of dollars for subversive programs.
As Johana Tablada, the subdirector for the United States in the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has written, U.S. policy toward the Caribbean nation “has nothing to do with the aspirations of the majority of citizens of Cuba and the U.S.”
“It is completely in response to the irrational political polarization in the United States and to pressure from electoral interests in Florida that are profiting from the anti-Cuba policy,” she said.
Today, when prime-time Cuban television news recalls Jill Biden’s walk among the cobblestones of this city, we wonder whether she is privately telling her husband the story of her days in the Caribbean.
There is even more curiosity about whether this, in conjunction with calls by activists, organizations and countries for an end to the unilateral pressures on Cuba, will support a return to the thaw in relations.