Biden Tells Ortega & Maduro Not to Get Their Hopes Up

Joe Biden holds Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo responsible for the deadly violence and repression in Nicaragua. Photos:

By Circles Robinson

HAVANA TIMES – Florida is a hot-bed of political activity in the run-up to Tuesday’s US presidential election. The “presidents” of several Latin American dictatorships (read Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua) are hoping that Joe Biden will win.

Their hopes may be based partly on Trump campaign propaganda that Biden will be soft on left-wing dictatorships. Republicans claim Biden will take his foot off the gas pedal and ease sanctions against these autocratic leaders and governments.

What the Trump campaign fails to mention, and the Biden camp tries to emphasize, is that Biden is no softy on dictatorships. The other factor is that sanctions against Ortega and Maduro enjoy almost unanimous bipartisan support in Congress. Clearly, Biden – like Trump – would like to see big changes in Cuba. The difference between the two candidates lies in their choice of strategies.

Both Ortega and Maduro only remain in power because of force and fraudulent elections. Both have taken their cues from the Cuban model. They have a loyal military leadership and state security forces ready to squash any dissent. They’ve taken over all state powers and basically abolished human rights and justice in their countries. 

Since Trump has imposed heavy sanctions on their families and key supporters, Ortega and Maduro hope Biden will change course. They are both looking for breathing room to continue consolidating their rule by force. However, Biden promises to continue demanding greater human rights and less repression in those countries.

What about Cuba?

Meanwhile, Trump’s policy on Cuba, panders to a possibly majority sector of Cuban-Americans who can vote. His actions see “squeezing the turnip dry” as the best way to rid the island of the Castro’s. The “turnip”, however, is the Cuban people on the island. They are clearly hurting badly from Trump’s punishment, much more than their rulers.

The Castro-Diaz Canel government continues to use the US embargo, and now the Trump sanctions, as a catch-all excuse. US policies allow them to justify their decades-long poor management of their near bankrupt economy, and political repression.

Biden promises a return to the Obama era rapprochement with Cuba. However, he has no love for the Cuban rulers. Obama’s policy was widely popular among Cubans who want change in their country. Interestingly, it was sharply criticized by Fidel and subsequently by Raul Castro and their Communist Party.

The Castro’s outright rejected Obama’s policy of opening more doors to Cuba. The Cuban government opposed the increased US travel, people-to-people exchanges and free flow of remittances to individuals and private businesses. They treated it as a “trojan horse” plan to subvert their rule. Their reaction was greater repression of dissenters and independent journalists and a slow-down in their own economic reform plan.

What Biden told Univision TV

Trump has vowed to continue his hardline xenophobic approach against immigrants and asylum seekers, especially from poor countries. He makes no exceptions for those seeking asylum from Nicaragua, Venezuela or Cuba. Biden told Univision that he will have a very different approach on immigration policy.

To the question: “There is a notion that under your administration, the sanctions that were imposed on these regimes would be removed or softened,” Biden responded the following:

“No, I wouldn’t soften them. Moreover, those who have already fled those countries will not be deported either.” Responding to the recent instant deportations of young Nicaraguans seeking asylum, he said: “[This applies to] Nicaraguans too.”

The candidate added: “If we are going to be tough on their governments, we cannot punish those who flee from these systems.” He added that as president he will immediately present a project granting Temporary Protective Status (TPS) to Venezuelans.

The Trump campaign continues to harp on the scare of a communist takeover of the US with Biden. That’s just one more lie of a president that has run roughshod over any form of honesty and decency. It’s unclear whether this resuscitated scare tactic will still resonate, in Florida or anywhere else.

Meanwhile, Nicaraguans, Cubans, and Venezuelans – like the rest of the world – wait with bated breath.


Read more news from Cuba and Nicaragua here on Havana Times.

4 thoughts on “Biden Tells Ortega & Maduro Not to Get Their Hopes Up

  • Vietnam fought its war of liberation and won. Fidel Castro led the revolution in Cuba and won. However, the differences in subsequent policies were considerable. Whereas Vietnam consolidated within its own borders and made developing its economy a priority, Cuba concentrated upon actively engaging in promoting revolution with military conflict in other countries, acting as a satellite of the Soviet Union. Vietnam adopted capitalism, an action which Fidel Castro openly deplored, being fixated upon the Stalinist interpretation of Marx/Engels/Lenin.

    John McAuliff indulges in wishful thinking in suggesting that Cuba under Castro rule would possibly abandon Its long held constipated policies in favour of those of Vietnam.

    When John McAuliff was attending the party at the US Embassy, I was at home with my Cuban family and the optimism he describes was palpable. It is indisputable that the mentally and physically declined Fidel Castro was responsible for dashing those hopes as illustrated by Circles Robinson. The day following the publication of the Fidel letter in Granma which was also read in full on Mesa Redondo (it took fourteen minutes), Bruno Rodriguez Carilles, clarified that: “there will be no reciprocation”.

    Obama had raised the hopes, and was answering the prayers of Cubans, when he opened the door to negotiation.

    The current hope is that assuming that Biden wins the Presidency and that Trump departs with some degree of grace rather than further stoking the fires of dissent within the US, that eventually a Biden administration which faces major internal challenges, will address Cuba and adopt and pursue the Obama policies. Progress is more likely to then occur if the cunning Raul Castro has followed Fidel, to rest in Santiago.

  • Circles,

    I agree that Fidel’s statement was negative. It was impossible for anyone to directly contradict him but my impression is that his words represented only the most cautious perspective within the government and Party.

    It might have been impossible in terms of US politics, but I wonder whether Obama making a courtesy call on Fidel as the Pope did would have affected the atmosphere after his departure.

    There was certainly not a negative change in policy or behavior about “US travel, people-to-people exchanges and free flow of remittances to individuals and private businesses”. The atmosphere was increasingly positive.

    The problem for evaluating whether repression increased is that the people complaining were against Obama’s policy of normalization and could have been seeking ways to discredit it.

    Did anything negative happen to the people who spoke frankly during Obama’s session promoting private business?

    Again, my memory is that serious backsliding was associated with Trump’s election.

    Because the legal conditions were different, Clinton was able to lift the embargo of Vietnam before he reestablished diplomatic relations. There were still conflicts after normalization but one of the biggest obstacles to establishing trust had been removed

  • John, Just for the record here is part of what Fidel had to say in the days following Obama’s visit to Havana. That’s when an even greater crackdown on dissent and the independent media began and the minor, but significant for many, reforms started to backtrack. The significant part came at the end of his front page article. As in many of his speeches he tended to have the punch lines at the end. Fidel first, and then Raul and the rest of the Party shunned Obama’s overtures, and then they got Trump 10 months later.

    There is an important issue:

    Obama made a speech in which he uses the most sweetened words to express: “It is time, now, to forget the past, leave the past behind, let us look to the future together, a future of hope. And it won’t be easy, there will be challenges and we must give it time; but my stay here gives me more hope in what we can do together as friends, as family, as neighbors, together.”

    I suppose all of us were at risk of a heart attack upon hearing these words from the President of the United States. After a ruthless blockade that has lasted almost 60 years, and what about those who have died in the mercenary attacks on Cuban ships and ports, an airliner full of passengers blown up in midair, mercenary invasions, multiple acts of violence and coercion?

    Nobody should be under the illusion that the people of this dignified and selfless country will renounce the glory, the rights, or the spiritual wealth they have gained with the development of education, science and culture.

    I also warn that we are capable of producing the food and material riches we need with the efforts and intelligence of our people. We do not need the empire to give us anything. Our efforts will be legal and peaceful, as this is our commitment to peace and fraternity among all human beings who live on this planet.

    Fidel Castro Ruz
    March 27, 2016

    The full article titled “Brother Obama” is here at:

  • Circles,

    We don’t really know what Biden will do about Nicaragua and Venezuela. About the latter, he, Nancy Pelosi and other mainstream Democrats appeared initially to follow the Trump/Bolton regime change fantasy of Juan Guaido. (Fareed Zakaria was a cheer leader as well, to his great discredit.)

    However Biden subsequently adopted a more nuanced position, stating in his Americas Society interview, “The United States should not be in the business of regime change. Nicolás Maduro is a dictator, plain and simple, but the overriding goal in Venezuela must be to press for a democratic outcome through free and fair elections, and to help the Venezuelan people rebuild their country.”

    In principle that frees the Biden Administration from going through a US created leader and allows it to seek a political solution directly with Maduro and the actual Venezuelan government. The US can support rather than sabotage the Norwegian peace initiative or create its own comprehensive approach to the region that includes an end to all economic sanctions and embargoes.

    I was surprised by your simplistic analysis of Cuba:

    “The Castro’s outright rejected Obama’s policy of opening more doors to Cuba. The Cuban government opposed the increased US travel, people-to-people exchanges and free flow of remittances to individuals and private businesses. They treated it as a ‘trojan horse’ plan to subvert their rule. Their reaction was greater repression of dissenters and independent journalists and a slow-down in their own economic reform plan.”

    While Fidel, or old guard intermediaries around him, did criticize Obama, it is not hard to understand why. The embargo is used as an excuse but it is also a classic act of very damaging economic warfare. I think that Obama and now Biden are moving toward an end of the embargo–and the return of Guantanamo. Their step by step approach is understandable in the context of US politics but makes it hard for older conservative sectors of the Party to stomach being lectured to about human rights and free enterprise by the same government that has had a knee on their neck for sixty years.

    However, over more than two decades of deep involvement with Cuba, I have never encountered opposition to, “increased US travel, people-to-people exchanges and free flow of remittances to individuals and private businesses” before or after Obama and Raul Castro normalized diplomatic relations. To the contrary.

    Did state institutions try initially to maintain monopoly control, sure, but that seemed bureaucratically and economically driven to maintain institutional primacy and fund the state budget. There was steady growth of openness to the important role of the non-state sector, most obvious in practical cooperation with bed and breakfasts and private restaurants. That will go further in the new round of economic reform discussions if travel is a sector authorized for small and medium enterprise.

    The “greater repression of dissenters and independent journalists and a slow-down in their own economic reform plan” did not come during the Obama Administration. It was a reaction to overt hostility and growing sanctions from Trump.

    The US responded to perceived threat in World War II by mass detention of Japanese Americans. We responded to post war conflict with the Soviet Union by McCarthyite purges from government and educational institutions, by imprisonment and firings of members of the US Communist Party because of suspected disloyalty, as well as by mob action against left cultural events. Are you surprised that a country of 11 million responds harshly and defensively to an existential threat from a thirty times larger geographically and culturally close superpower and mistreats citizens who overtly support US aggression against national sovereignty?

    Just as I believe Cuba would dramatically improve its economic situation if it adapted and adopted Vietnam’s market model, I believe the US would dramatically strengthen its influence in Cuba if it followed the same policy of mutual respect and non-interference that it has with Vietnam. Do I hope that Cuba, like Vietnam, finds a path to a more liberal and tolerant multi-party political system? Yes, but the only role that US can play in either country’s process is to give it space for its people to find their own path for their own reasons.

    You can find my no doubt overoptimistic assessment of where Biden might go on Cuba as published by the Quincy Institute at

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