The Biden administration decided to relax policies toward Cuba with the argument of “improving the lives of its citizens.” However, recent history seems to reveal that the objective of the Democratic leader is not exactly that.
Antonio Rodiles, a Cuban political activist and coordinator of the Estado de Sats—a forum created in July 2010 to encourage debate on social, cultural, and political issues in Cuba—gave an interview to El American in which he revealed that the Cuban people will not be the main beneficiaries of Biden’s decision to ease sanctions on the island’s regime.
Rodiles assured that the dictatorship of Miguel Díaz-Canel allowed a large exodus to the United States with the intention of pressuring sanctions relief. He affirmed that, apparently, he achieved his goal.
“The regime will take the biggest cut. Ordinary Cubans may see some relief, but nothing significant,” he explained.
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The interview was originally conducted in Spanish; It has been edited and translated for publication.
What are the changes that the United States has just implemented in its policies towards Cuba?
The U.S. government is retaking part of the policy implemented during the Obama administration, which was later reversed by former President Trump. In particular, the policies related to travel to the island and the number of remittances allowed; now they mention again entrepreneurship as an element to support; but during the so-called thaw, it was the regime and individuals close to this system who were able to obtain greater benefits.
Biden says that the decision is to “improve the lives of Cubans”. In practice, how true is this?
Undoubtedly a greater economic movement will benefit the common people somewhat, but the biggest slice, by far, will go to the regime and its loyalists, added to the fact that it will mean political consolidation. What is unsustainable is to apply strong sanctions, ask the people to revolt, and give hardly any support. That has been the Rubio/Diaz-Balart line.
What do you think is the real reason why the Biden administration made this decision?
Joe Biden had promised to return to this policy since his election campaign. That return had been delayed after the July 11 protests. Since last November, the regime allowed another exodus through Nicaragua to the United States in order to put pressure on the current administration, and I believe that the objective was achieved.
Who are the most benefited by these changes, who are the most affected, and why?
Policies toward Cuba have the characteristic of always having high levels of uncertainty in terms of results. As long as they are not seen to work in practice, it is difficult to predict. If they are applied, as they were applied under Obama, the regime will get the most out of them and political control will increase, although, unlike in 2014, the opposition is clearly decimated.
What are the political, economic, and social implications of these changes for the United States?
The United States generally moves between two lines of policy towards Cuba. At some moments it acts with more strength, at others, it is permissive in the face of the regime’s excesses. The regime had launched an exodus that seemed uncontrollable, and the administration saw the possibility of implementing these measures as a way to stop it. On the other hand, the permanence of Castroism implies instability in the region and the corresponding implications for the United States.
What is Biden’s goal in easing his relationship with Cuba and Venezuela?
I believe that the Biden administration has sought to ease tensions in the region while having to face a complex situation in Europe with the war in Ukraine.
It was also expected that the current president would follow a foreign policy line similar to Obama’s, where appeasement prevailed in the hope of less aggressive behavior from totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. However, the practice has shown that these systems gain positions and do not yield to unilateral concessions.
How do you rate the U.S. policy towards Cuba in recent years?
It is essential to point out that there is no strategy, not even in the medium term, toward Cuba. Obama’s policy was launched based on false visions and expectations and therefore failed.
Then, under Trump, the line drawn by Rubio/Díaz-Balart contemplated sanctions, but no serious support to the internal opposition, which resulted in the regime crushing the reduced opposition movement.
The Cuban people cannot be asked to erupt in protests and then endure the repressive onslaught of Castroism without resources or political support.
A drastic change is urgently needed. Speeches and intentions do not change totalitarian regimes. The cost we pay is very high.