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Are there signs of change in Cuban-US relations?

This is how political analysts consulted by DIARIO DE CUBA see Biden's policy towards Havana, which 'often makes the task of Cuban democrats even more difficult'.

Joe Biden.
Joe Biden. EFE

Migration, academic/scientific exchange, flights, trade and disaster assistance are some of the issues that have recently formed part of a rapprochement between the Cuban and U.S. governments. According to Cuban-American congressmen such as Mario Diaz-Balart, Maria Elvira Salazar and Carlos A. Gimenez, there is an "apparent change" in Biden's policy towards Havana.
Prompted by this "concern", the legislators even asked the Biden Administration for answers in a letter sent on October 24.

DIARIO DE CUBA spoke with analysts Yaxys Cires, Juan Antonio Blanco and Manuel Cuesta Morúa on this issue.

"In May the Biden Administration revoked several restrictions established by his predecessor, Donald Trump. The lifting of some of them had a certain logic in the Cuban context, seeking to make things a little easier for part of the population; here we can include the issues of remittances, flights to Cuban airports other than the capital, and the facilitation of consular procedures in Havana, which is also part of the country’s national security interest and a broader policy towards the region," says Yaxys Cires, director of Strategies at the Cuban Human Rights Observatory.

According to the coordinator of Cuba Humanista, "in that package they included other (measures) that do not make sense in the current context, such as resuming group travel under the category of 'people to people' educational trips, which is something more focused on certain elites on both sides."

"These measures were not accompanied by a clear and stringent condemnation of the regime, the real cause of Cubans' problems. It seems that someone has managed to establish the idea that certain measures should not be accompanied by political and legal demands made of the regime, sometimes because they are humanitarian and other times because they think that a 'climate of trust' must be generated. This is wrong and anti-political."   

In Cires’ view, "this means sacrificing the advantages held now to leave everything up to the will of those who have shown that they do not respect the rules of the game."

In this regard, he asked: "How can one propose migratory measures, or measures on travel, and not have a strategy so that the regime stops using which Cubans can enter or leave their own country, as a political punishment?" He continued: "to do this, leadership, creativity and audacity are needed."

He considers positive "the individual sanctions against the repressors of the July 11 and 12 demonstrations," but criticized that "in the latest announcements the names of those sanctioned were not mentioned."

Cires pointed out that "the Biden Administration said it would take action, but would never go back to Obama's policy."
"The issue is that it's difficult to identify what the central core of the current policy is, and that causes concern in democratic sectors," he said.  

"There are a number of developments of a varying nature suggesting that the approach to that policy, moving beyond the status quo, should be very carefully considered," he said.

He gave as examples "the changes that have occurred in Cuban society since the 11J protests; the repression unleashed by the regime against demonstrators, including minors; the call for confrontation issued by Miguel Diaz-Canel himself; the strengthening of the repressive legal apparatus; the current migratory stampede; the death of General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja; the recent sinking of the vessel in Bahía Honda; the inability of the system to resolve even mere administrative issues; Cuba's involvement in Venezuela, and its support for Russia."

In Cires' opinion, Obama's and Trump's policies had "positive elements; in one case, the work with civil society, and, in the other, its clear confrontation with the Cuban elite."

"The United States and the European Union must assist the Cuban people in a search for 'a way out' of the current regime, and then help them on this path with all their moral, political and economic leadership. It may be difficult to clarify, in the immediate term, some milestones along the way, due, for example, to the current situation of the internal opposition, or to the difficulty of identifying reformist agents within the regime. But that is where political creativity and the firm conviction that the Cuban people have the right to a free and prosperous future have to play their role," he stated.

"President Biden has an extensive political track record, as do some Cuban-American politicians from both parties. It would be best if they could agree on a bold policy," he said.

"External expressions of an erroneous and perverse logic"

In the words of Cuban political analyst Juan Antonio Blanco, "the false premise developed by the Intelligence Directorate in the 1990s, which was planted by (spy) Ana Belén Montes in the intelligence, academic, political and communication communities (in the United States), is still in force."

This theory is that "the only danger Cuba presents to the U.S. is that of mass exoduses, so Washington's goal should be to 'stabilize' the government's control over society by lifting sanctions and giving the regime all kinds of advantages."

"US policy, like that of any country, prioritizes national security threats and pays marginal political and economic attention to other issues of interest, such as human rights and democracy. In the Biden Administration there are sincere believers in the Ana Belen Montes paradigm, as there were in the Obama Administration. The problem is that they have not conceptually internalized some basic issues," he explained.  

"The first is the current totalitarian, mafia-like nature of the Cuban system, and that the governance regime went into a lethal, multi-systemic spiral, and finally crashed in 2022. The coup de grace was the collapse of the energy system," he explained.

According to Blanco, "the second is that the system that collapsed can only be replaced, but not repaired with any injection of resources."

According to the doctor in History, for this "there are only two possibilities of replacement; one would be guided by authoritarian reformists within the oligarchy itself, who would impose a mafia-led regime with a controlled and corrupt market, as in Russia."

"The other would involve pro-democratic popular forces, supported by the military, initiating a transition process towards an open, democratic, free-market society under the rule of law and that protects human rights," he added. According to the analyst, "one or the other will happen in the short term."

"U.S. officials, like those in almost all European countries, believe they are objective, pragmatic and prudent, generally banking on ad hoc reforms controlled by autocratic elites rather than on revolutions driven by pro-democracy forces. The result is that they often make the task of Cuban democrats even more difficult —though not impossible—," Blanco said.

In the analyst’s words: "that is the background of the drama, the rest ('cultural' exchanges, etc.) are the external expressions of this erroneous and perverse logic."


Cuban dissident leader Manuel Cuesta Morúa sees "evident signs of change," beginning with the reestablishment of the U.S. Embassy’s services in Cuba.

"As a second, I would say no the encouragement of, but complacency towards resuming meetings between U.S. businessmen and alleged Cuban businessmen," he said, which he described as "a really dangerous path to explore, especially because Cuban businessmen are captives of the power structures."

The historian warned that "if the domestic market is not stimulated, if (the changes in US policies) are not based on universal criteria of legal security that apply to all, if private initiative is not fomented, the only thing that will be furthered is a kind of commercial capitalism in Cuba, which is not good for society."

In Cuesta's opinion, the third sign of change involves "political and symbolic gestures, of generosity, sending messages to both the Cuban government and the Cuban people that the US is not the enemy."

The analyst observed that this is "a trend encouraged by Obama, and that has a precedent in the Bush Administration’s move to remove the sale of medicines and food from the embargo policy."

"The latest example of this is the aid given when the Matanzas supertanker explosion occurred, and then the granting of two million dollars through USAID for Hurricane Ian assistance. These are gestures that indicate signs of change. There is also the academic and scientific cultural exchange program, another sign, but I do not think it is an implementation of Obama's policy as he initiated it," he said.

"Obama believed that the best policy was to seek rapprochement with the enemy. Although he had meetings with sectors of independent civil society leaders, he put the issue of human rights and freedoms on the back burner. I don't think Biden is doing that. As the exchange with Cuban authorities grows, Biden is increasingly pointing to the importance of human rights and the US commitment in this regard," he said.

"I think there is a policy balance that I find very interesting and that could result in USAID being viewed in another way, for example; the same organization that the Cuban government constantly denounces for alleged subversion in Cuba is the same one that has just granted the country humanitarian aid. It's like a message of USAID's legitimacy for everything," he added.

"Biden increasingly points to the importance of releasing political prisoners, respecting freedoms, and I even find the terms the Administration uses to identify these rights as constitutional very interesting," he concluded.

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