Prospects for Biden’s Policies Towards Ortega & Cuba

“More than threats or sanctions”

Daniel Ortega and Joe Biden

Seasoned political scientist Richard Feinstein believes that under the Biden administration, sanctions against the Ortega regime will be paired with “negotiations”.

By Ana Lucia Cruz (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – The United States government is now in the hands of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. The new administration will undoubtedly be changing the approach towards sociopolitical and economic issues in other countries. Its policies towards regimes like that of Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba will likely be “not just threats and sanctions”. These are the predictions of political scientist, economist and former US government official Richard Feinberg.

Feinberg was interviewed during the Nicaraguan online news program “Esta Noche”. He noted that the Biden administration has already recognized that sanctions alone aren’t the answer. In the words of Anthony Blinken, the new US Secretary of State, the “sanctions (..) haven’t yielded results”.

In that context, Feinberg expects Biden’s policies toward Nicaragua to be “more realistic. Not just threats or sanctions but wrapped in realistic strategies. Also, they’ll be working with the European countries and other countries of the region. They could possibly enter into negotiations with the regime, and other active forces in the country.”

Feinberg is currently a professor at the University of California, San Diego. He stated that this possibility of addressing the situation in Nicaragua through negotiations would be aimed at the elections. The goal would be elections that are: “freer, with more possibilities for the opposition to organize and – above all – to unify.”  They know, Feinberg added, that “in Nicaragua’s history, you can’t advance without unity.”

The political expert feels it’s possible to “create legal foundations for elections that open a democratic path.” This involves a joint effort. On the one hand, the strength of an organized population or opposition, and on the other, negotiations with international forces.

Ortega must choose his path, just like Somoza

For the Ortega regime, Biden’s policy changes could be good news. The strategy of the Biden administration will probably be a combination of sanctions and incentives to negotiate. Feinberg noted, however, that “the people make their own history.”

Feinberg believes that Ortega must choose, as the Somoza dictatorship did, the road he wants to take. He must choose his response to these new policies oriented towards the search for democracy.

With Cuba, Feinberg predicted that Biden’s policies would be “more or less what Obama was doing.”

Judging by Biden’s campaign statements, Feinberg asserted, the next years will probably see a return to more open policies. He believes Biden will: “allow US citizens to visit Cuba, permit more flights, etc. In addition, Cubans living in the United States will be able to send their remittances to family members.”

However, Feinberg warned that the United States government would have to weigh “what happens on the island (…) [They’ll have to] find out if they decide to accept the reforms or not.”

In Feinberg’s opinion, the policies implemented by Obama yielded “a lot of results” in Cuba. This, he feels, was true, even though they only lasted two years.

Under those policies, “There was more freedom and more private businesses, a better climate towards the United States.” Feinberg deemed that if Biden invests in a “policy of openness towards the regime,” it may “offer better results”.

Actions in the government’s first 100 days

Biden’s approach to Latin America will be visible in the first hundred days of his government, said Feinberg. That’s despite the domestic challenges he faces in health, employment and the US economy.

“It’s a very large government, with a lot of people. It must be able to tackle a lot of things at the same time, internal affairs as well as external. So, I believe that we will have a Latin American policy within the first hundred days,” he affirmed.

Feinberg added that Biden’s team “is fully familiar with the region”. They’ll be able to work on “domestic problems” at the same time they “work with other countries, not in isolation”. “In addition to the pandemic, they must confront infrastructure problems, how to improve public education, problems of universal health care systems. (…) I believe that, yes, we’ll be able to share and work together with other countries, especially in Latin America.”

The economist commented that the work this new United States government has before it is “based on value chains*”. These would be implemented in Latin America, especially in Central America. The goals of these chains are: “more investment, more exports and more employment, especially in the free trade zones.”

Regarding Nicaragua’s access to this type of benefit, or agreements with the new U.S. government, Feinberg feels it’s uncertain. It would have to be seen, “if Nicaragua can enter on the road to democracy, once and for all (…) If so, then I haven’t the least doubt that Nicaragua could participate in those programs of regional aid.”

The Biden administration has already announced that they’ll be earmarking 4 billion dollars for Central America. The money will be aimed at combatting poverty and slowing emigration. However, only Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have been mentioned as beneficiary countries.

Up through December 2020, the US government had imposed sanctions on 27 top-level functionaries of the Ortega regime.  Sanctions also affected nine public institutions or mixed enterprises.  Among entities under sanction is the National Police.

*Value chains is a business concept, involving a set of activities that a company performs in order to deliver a valuable product to the market.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.

4 thoughts on “Prospects for Biden’s Policies Towards Ortega & Cuba

  • The fact that Cuba have to buy Mangoes to Dominican Republic , Sugar to France, and it’s an island and there is not Salt in the stores it’s not one fault that the incompetent dictatorship that only care is to repress the people of Cuba. 62 years and nothing works except repression and lack of freedom

  • Stephen;
    I beg to differ with you regarding, ‘Cuba treating the American Government more as a friend, not a perpetual foe’.
    I am married to a Cuban lady who has just arrived in Canada.
    We have been married since 2016 and I have spent a good deal of time in the Santa Marta area of Cuba (the city adjacent to Veradero, over the bridge).
    I started travelling to Cuba in 2010 and I have watched the American Government’s gradual choking, Extraterritorial Sanctions’ apply its ugly effects on the citizenry of Cuba, even as President Obama ‘opened up Cuba’, in so many words.
    Now the Cuban people, because of these Sanctions, are destitute! There is NO FOOD AVAILABLE, because of American Sanctions !
    The American people have absolutely NO IDEA of the lack of goods, food, medicines, etc. that the USA’s Extraterritorial Sanctions, engender on a nations citizens.
    It does not hurt the government, except for the citizens problems with obtaining the aforementioned goods and supplies. IT DOES NOTHING BUT HARM CUBA”S CITIZENS’.

    Extraterritorial Sanctions are applied by the US Government AGAINST countries that supply the things I previously mentioned, with the pain of sanctions AGAINST the SUPPLYING NATIONS Either by the use of MILITARY FORCE or a MONETARY FINE or other EQUALLY SEVERE CONSEQUENCES !

    The next time you hear the US Government say, it is Bringing Democracy, to help the people be free’, in whatever country they are ATTACKING, keep in mind HOW they intend to do this TOTALLY ILLEGAL action, which is SUPPOSEDLY NOT ALLOWED, under United Nations Policies’.
    This is, and always HAS BEEN, the USA’s modus operandi. Nothing new here folks.


    Don from Northern Canada.

  • We are all affected by the conduct of the USA. A return of civility, decency and fact based decision making will benefit all of us. The Trump era conduct has undermined the image of democracy as the preferred option for developing countries. I am glad to see the change that the Biden administration brings.
    Michael Wiggin, Ottawa, Canada

  • “Its policies towards regimes like that of Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba will likely be “not just threats and sanctions”. The author could also have included the country north of the 49th parallel, Canada, as another country subject to past negativism, though the article is specifically about Latin America.

    Canada was also subjected to unfair threats, sanctions and tariffs on Canadian traditional exports to the U.S. such as aluminum. The country endured.

    Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are indeed following Obama’s United States foreign affair’s policy script inciting “more or less what Obama was doing.” as Feinberg rightly asserts.

    During the Obama term, the President cancelled (killed is probably a more appropriate term) the Keystone XL pipeline dream initiated by the Alberta (Canadian oil producing province) government and reluctantly supported by the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau. Climate change was an integral part of Obama’s government policy and he certainly did not want “dirty oil” to be piped to Nebraska.

    Along comes Trump and of course he simply trashed all of Obama’s policies and reinstated the Keystone XL pipeline expansion and construction. Similarly, as Feinberg writes: “. . . the policies implemented by Obama yielded “a lot of results” in Cuba. However, as recent history has clearly demonstrated all Trump did for Cuba was evoke harsh sanctions and put the country on the “terrorist” list.

    In Biden’s first few days in office, he has moved swiftly and conclusively in relation to Canada. Trump’s openness to the Keystone XL petroleum pipeline was summarily nixed. Yes, roughly one thousand Canadian jobs were sacrificed but Biden and his administration have a much broader and wider vision with regard to climate change and that is, unlike Trump, the United States is now a key and influential player in the climate crises. The United States is back again in the Paris Agreement and clearly prepared to take all the necessary action, as Canada has witnessed, to try an ameliorate the existential climate crisis.

    Biden and his Democratic team have many challenges ahead of them; nevertheless, as Fienberg asserts regarding Cuba, “. . . if Biden invests in a “policy of openness towards the regime,” it may “offer better results”.

    Obama also had an openness policy towards the Cuban regime. His more liberal method of diplomacy allowed United States citizens the opportunity to visit the island unrestricted, allowed American airlines to prosper with many flights, and very importantly as a shared opportunity for cooperation and economic enhancement the ability of United States citizens to freely send remittances to friends and families in Cuba. No doubt Biden will reciprocate.

    There is no doubt Biden and his administration will do their part to help the Cuban people in their dire economic struggles. Now, it is up to the communist regime to do its part and also practice some overt openness to substantial, lasting, prospective change. It takes two to tango. The communist elites, if and when Biden continues the Obama policy script towards Cuba, will have to treat the United States more as a friend, not a perpetual foe.

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