By Jesus Arboleya (Progreso Weekly)
HAVANA TIMES – US government officials insist that Cuba is not a priority for the United States. Under current conditions, for the United States there is no other priority than itself.
As reported by New York Times journalist David Sanger, National Security Adviser John Sullivan said the United States will only regain its global influence after it has tamed the pandemic, restored its economic growth and reestablished relations with allies.
He might well add resolving the enormous existing political polarization, decreasing levels of violence the FBI has placed in the category of “internal terrorism,” and overcoming the deterioration of governmental institutions in charge of facing these and other problems.
The journalist’s own criterion is that, as a result of this situation, Joe Biden’s foreign policy progresses more slowly than his domestic one and is characterized by moderation, caution and deliberation of the most urgent decisions.
The policy towards Cuba is no exception, according to what was said by an administration spokesperson. It is currently under review and action will be taken with enough care so as not to affect other interests and it must bide its time.
One aspect that conspires against the advancement of the Cuban issue is Biden’s interest in not making decisions that could hinder the confirmation process of cabinet members by the Senate, congressional approval of proposals as important as the recent economic rescue plan in face of the pandemic, or immigration reform.
Republican Cuban-American legislators have not lost the opportunity to link the issue of Cuba to these processes. However, what seems to matter most to the new administration is to not confront Democratic Senator Bob Menendez. He’s a staunch enemy of the Cuban government, who survived a murky legal process for corruption, and now holds the chairmanship of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee.
Both Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, as well as other administration officials, have said that their intention is to consult Cuba policy with the Cuban-American community. They have not clarified to which sectors they refer to. But, according to statements by Menendez himself, some nods from the secretary to Senator Marco Rubio, as well as the lack of response to initiatives by Cuban-American Democrats who advocate for the improvement of relations, arouse suspicion as to the Biden administration’s direction on the matter.
An analyst as important as FIU’s Guillermo Grenier, who for many years has directed the Cuba Poll surveys on the political attitudes of the Cuban-American community, has emphasized that the preference of Cuban Americans for Republicans is due, to a large extent, to the weakness of the political work done by Democrats.
Obama’s merit, who garnered relevant results with Cuban-American voters, was understanding the differences in this community and proposing alternatives to the agenda of the extreme right Republicans regarding the Cuba issue. This logic did not prevail during the recent election among Democrats. And so far, it does not appear to predominate in the administration’s strategy toward Miami.
The level of aggressiveness against Cuba expressed by the new administration against Cuba is very far from the discourse and practice carried out by Donald Trump. However, it has done nothing to alleviate the burden that the Cuban people suffer. Above all, there has not been one single conciliatory gesture that depicts the meaning of their policy. Rather, President Biden’s statements in support for the Cuban opposition do nothing but buoy the actions of the extreme right allied to Trumpism.
Some even suspect that Biden’s slowness in reversing the most aggressive measures of the Trump administration against Cuba, for example, the restrictions on travel and remittances, hide intentions of not stopping a supposed debacle of the Cuban government affected by the combination of the intensification of the blockade and the economic effects of the pandemic.
It is difficult to believe that US specialists very familiar with the Cuban issue, even during the Trump administration, believed the thesis of the sudden overthrow of the Cuban government in this way. However, the lack of sensitivity by the Biden government to the Cuban situation contradicts the credibility of a policy that is proposed based on the protection of human rights in Cuba. It establishes a very negative beginning for relations between the two countries — if recovering them is what the new administration really intends.
Barely a couple of months have passed since the inauguration, and there are problems that can really take time to get relationships back to where they were at the end of the Obama term.
Restoring the full functioning of the embassies and consulates involves solving the mystery of the “sonic attacks” against the US diplomats based in Cuba, a complicated task for the Secretary of State, precisely because there is no proof of their existence. In other words it is how one can officially ensure that ghosts do not exist.
A return to compliance with the commitments contained in the migration agreements depends on this, something that the United States may not be very interested in expediting, due to the problems of the pandemic.
It would even be understandable that they delay processes such as the dismantling of the more than 200 coercive measures established by Trump. Likewise, unlocking the bureaucracy to put into full operation the 22 agreements of mutual interest signed during the Obama years.
However, there are no excuses for delay or, at least, affirm the commitment with decisions such as reestablishing travel and remittances, facilitating the purchase of medicines and food, or removing Cuba from the list of countries that promote terrorism, which would rectify one of the most arbitrary acts of the Trump administration.
Not all government decisions are related to priorities. Countless other issues are what really characterize their daily actions. What the sectors interested in improving relations with Cuba are demanding, and the Cuban people are carefully watching for, is that Joe Biden define his intentions and, at least, make moves that shift his policy in a different direction than Trump’s.
Biden came to power based on a hope of creating a shift in US politics. Proving that is his main priority. Cuba would be a good sample button.