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‘INVISIBLE CAMPAIGN’ AND THE SPECTER OF SOCIALISM: WHY CUBAN AMERICANS FELL HARD FOR TRUMP

BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES

Miami Herald, NOVEMBER 19, 2020 11:00 AM,

Original Article: Why Cuban Americans Fell  for Trump

Following his surprising victory in 2016, Donald Trump claimed he got 80 percent of the Cuban-American vote in South Florida.

He was exaggerating.

But 2020 was a different story.

Years of courting voters with tough policies toward Cuba and Venezuela, a strong pre-pandemic economy, an unmatched Republican ground game in Miami-Dade and a targeted messaging instilling fear about socialism coming to America helped the president rally Cuban-American voters, part of the reason he carried Florida.

Although Trump lost the election, his inroads into the Cuban-American community in South Florida suggests trouble ahead for the Democratic Party.

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Politics & Policy in the Sunshine State

Definite numbers for 2020 are still in dispute, but estimates reflect the Democratic Party’s poor performance among Cuban Americans, and among Hispanics in general, in Florida.

While Trump won more Cuban-American votes in 2016 than Hillary Clinton in Miami-Dade County, his margin was somewhere between 54 and 57 percent, below Mitt Romney’s 60 percent share in 2012.

Separate analyses of tallies in more than 30 Cuban-majority precincts in Hialeah, Westchester and the suburbs of southwest Miami-Dade by Republican and Democratic strategists suggest that four years later, Trump made double-digit gains, getting as much as 69 percent of the Cuban-American vote. Giancarlo Sopo, a Trump campaign staffer, and Carlos Odio, director of the Democratic research firm EquisLabs, independently concluded that President-elect Joe Biden’s percentage of the Cuban-American vote in Miami-Dade was in the low 30s.

But this might not be the whole picture, said Eduardo Gamarra, a professor and pollster at Florida International University. While Trump undeniably improved his numbers in heavily Cuban areas like Hialeah and Westchester, Gamarra has found less enthusiasm in more wealthy enclaves like Coral Gables and Key Biscayne.

“If you’re going to analyze the Cuban vote, you need to account for the vote in the entire county,” he said. He cited several exit polls and others done close to the election of people who had already voted, including one poll he was involved in, showing that Trump got around 55 percent of the Cuban-American vote.

Fernand Amandi, a long-term Democratic political strategist who runs the firm Bendixen & Amandi International, believes Biden’s share of the Cuban-American vote in Miami-Dade might be about 38 percent, and a bit higher statewide, about 41 percent, according to exit polls and surveys his firm conducted.

But Sopo and Odio disagree with these estimates because many polls proved to be off during this election cycle. If Trump had won only a 55 percent share of the Cuban American vote in Miami-Dade, that number would not reflect the enthusiasm shown by pro-Trump Cuban-American voters nor help explain his overall winning margins in the state, where he got around 371,000 votes more than Biden.

Regardless of the final number, all agree the Biden campaign was not up to the challenge.

“It’s still a poor result,” Amandi said, calling the Biden campaign at times “invisible” in Miami-Dade County. The COVID-19 pandemic had much to do with it, Odio added, since the campaign did not knock on doors till weeks before the election and decided to limit in-person events, and was unable to match Trump’s energetic rallies.

But Trump never really stopped campaigning in Florida. For years now, the Democrats have not been able to match the strong presence of the Republican Party in the community, which has given many Cuban Americans “an identity,” Florida International University professor Guillermo Grenier wrote in a two-part analysis of the Cuban vote. He is the director of the FIU poll that every two years surveys the opinions of Cuban-American voters residing in Miami-Dade.

“The fundamental problem is that the Democrats took their foot off the accelerator from engaging with the Cuban community,” said Amandi, who was part of the team that helped Barack Obama win the support of Cuban and other Hispanic voters in the county. “Meanwhile, the Trump campaign never stopped in its efforts to win the Cuban vote for four years.”

While Cuban Americans have been a reliable Republican voting bloc, supporting the traditional themes of low taxes, small government and family values, there was “a perfect storm” of things particular to this election that ended up helping Republicans, Odio said.

He cites a prosperous economy, the strongman aspect of Trump’s character that apparently appealed to some Cubans and other Hispanics, and the election to Congress of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which further fueled the narrative about the Democratic Party steering to the left. Acts of vandalism amid protests over police brutality and slogans like “Defund the police” were also exploited by the Trump campaign and Trump’s surrogates to instill fear of a progressive left that would dictate Biden’s agenda.

HIALEAH FELL HARD FOR TRUMP

The Democrats also learned the hard way that “demography is not destiny,” as the American political scientist Ruy Teixeira wrote in his influential essay warning that changes in the electorate do not always favor the Democrats.

For many years, Democrats assumed that as older Cuban exiles were being replaced by new Cuban arrivals and younger voters, Cuban Americans would become less Republican. The 2020 presidential election was a surprise: The FIU 2020 poll found that many Cuban immigrants coming after 2010 had been registering Republican and becoming strong Trump supporters.

“We ran an innovative grassroots and advertising effort that directly engaged newer Cuban arrivals — who had been largely ignored by both parties — as well as young U.S.-born Cuban Americans in ways that were culturally relevant to them and different than how you’d engage my abuelos’ generation,” said Sopo, a Miami native who was one of the architects of the messaging targeting Hispanics in Florida.

The campaign ran a Spanish video ad featuring popular Cuban actress Susana Pérez, who is better known among Cubans who came to U.S. after 1980. Another radio ad with fictional characters “Marita y Yesenia” mimics the speaking style and slang used by recent arrivals.

Most observers agree that there is no single issue that could explain why most Cuban Americans mobilized so forcefully this year to support the president.

Take Hialeah, a working-class city with the most Obamacare enrollees in the nation and where many recently arrived Cubans live. The Trump administration asked the courts to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act. Yet, the Democratic Party was unable to exploit this to its advantage, and Trump grew his share of the vote by 18 points in the city, compared to 2016, beating Biden 67% to 32.5%, according to Sopo’s analysis.

There have been several attempts to explain why Cuban Americans in Hialeah would vote for a candidate whose policies could affect their healthcare or have already limited their ability to travel to the island or reunite with family members.

Gamarra believes that working-class Cuban Americans do not behave that differently from non-college-educated white voters, a core group in Trump’s base. And Odio argues that many might be attracted to the image of the successful businessman, who is politically incorrect and stands against Washington’s establishment and the media.

Trump’s nationalist populism also seems to have resonated with many Cuban Americans.

The chorus of a viral song by the Cuban musical group Tres de La Habana that later became part a Trump campaign ad says, “If you feel proud to be Cuban and American, raise your hands!”

But beyond issues of cultural identity and nationalist rhetoric, a lot of the burden for Biden doing poorly among Cuban Americans is on the decisions taken by the Democratic Party and the Biden campaign, most analysts agreed.

Gamarra said besides “being late,” the Biden campaign made other mistakes, like deciding it was not worth investing much in improving their numbers with Cuban Americans and taking for granted that other Hispanic groups, like Colombians, would vote Democratic.

The Biden campaign acknowledged it didn’t need to win the support of a majority of Cuban Americans to win Florida but was hoping to match Clinton’s numbers or compensate for those votes somewhere else, for example, with non-Cuban Hispanics. That didn’t happen either.

“We built a new conservative coalition in South Florida consisting of Cubans, Colombians, Puerto Ricans and other Latinos in Miami-Dade County,” Sopo wrote in a memo obtained by the Miami Herald. ‘This netted approximately 255,657 additional votes for President Trump in Miami-Dade in 2020, which accounted for around 69% of his 371,686-vote victory over Joe Biden in Florida.”

THE SOCIALISM DEBATE IN MIAMI

Amandi was one of the first in sounding the alarm about the Democrats’ problem with Cuban voters, especially regarding their lack of response to attacks portraying their candidates as socialists or communists, which were successfully deployed against Andrew Gillum in the 2018 Florida gubernatorial race.

“The biggest mistake was when it was decided that the accusations about socialism and communism were not going to be rebuked because they were considered absurd,” Amandi said.

The Trump campaign made a concerted effort to misleadingly portray Biden as a socialist, posting manipulated images of him embracing Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro and claiming he was “the candidate of Castro-Chavismo” in one of its most viewed ads in South Florida. Such accusations found fertile soil in Miami Cuban media and were amplified on local Miami radio, TV stations, and by social media influencers who had welcomed Trump’s tough talk on Cuba and Venezuela.

Shortly after Trump’s victory in 2016, Cuban exile groups who felt left out from the policy-making process during the Obama administration became more vocal in their criticism of what they saw as Obama’s failed engagement policies with Cuba and concessions made to the Cuban government.

Increased government repression on the island, the Cuban leadership’s unwavering support of Maduro in Venezuela, and Cuba’s reluctance to implement reforms to rescue a rapidly deteriorating economy all reinforced perceptions about the failures of engagement. With its eyes on Florida 2020, Trump vowed in Miami to reverse “the prior administration’s terrible and misguided deal with the Castro regime,” and made Cuba and Venezuela the center of its Latin American policy.

The picture is nuanced: While most Cuban Americans approve of President Trump’s sanctions campaign against the Cuban government, they also support many of Obama’s policies, such as maintaining diplomatic relations or travel to the island, as shown by the FIU 2020 poll. Pro-engagement advocates still contend that Obama’s policies did not hurt the Democratic Party. But others believe that misses a crucial point.

“The weaponization of U.S. policy towards Cuba was the entry point to help cement the idea that the Democratic Party is the party of socialists,” Amandi said.

Then there was the 2020 media environment, with voters watching or reading partisan media, living in information bubbles, and plenty of misinformation circulating among the Hispanic communities, making it difficult for the Democratic campaign messaging to make it through. By the time the campaign started responding to the socialism accusations, it was too late.

Just weeks before the election, Mike Bloomberg financed a round of TV ads featuring members of the Bay of Pigs Brigade and Cuban exile writer Carlos Alberto Montaner pushing back on the accusations that Biden and running mate Kamala Harris were socialists. Internal polling data suggest the ads were able to move the needle in favor of Biden. But the effort came too late to have a larger impact on the race.

However, analysts believe that, with the right strategy, the Democratic Party could again reach the historic support Obama obtained among Cuban Americans in 2012. In that election he won 53 percent of Cuban Americans who cast a ballot on Election Day, and an overall 48 percent of the Cuban-American vote in the state, according to a poll by Bendixen & Amandi.

“It would be a mistake for both parties to believe that these numbers are permanent,” Amandi said.

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UNITED STATES: HOW DID LATINOS VOTE?

Eric Hershberg, Director of the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies and Professor of Government, American University.

AULA Blog, November 17, 2020

Original Article: United States: How Did Latinos Vote?

Amid considerable discussion of how the Latino vote in the U.S. Presidential election impacted the outcome, evidence already shows that Latino voters played an important role in Joe Biden’s razor-thin majority in key states and will be a crucial, if diverse, electorate in the future. A frequent trope is that there is no such thing as the Latino vote, given the heterogeneity of the population that identifies as Latino (or Hispanic, Latina, or Latinx). Latino voters are of diverse national origin, geographic location, educational achievement, income, language preference, and religiosity. Some trace their roots in the United States back many generations, while others are immigrants. These factors conditioned voter behavior on November 3.

  • Exit polls, which are not entirely reliable, indicate that the 13 percent of the electorate that self-identified as Latino voted 65-32 percent for Biden over Trump. This was roughly in line with forecasts. Although the respected polling firm Latino Decisions announced on the eve of the election that at no point in its surveys did Trump exceed 30 percent of voter intentions, the eventual outcome was within the margin of error. The more notable polling miss was with the broader electorate: nationwide polling anticipated a gap of 5-12 percent between Biden and Trump in the popular vote, which in fact turned out to be around 4 percent.
  • As with the white electorate, there was a notable gender gap among Latinos: The margin in favor of the Biden-Harris ticket was 69-30 percent among Latina women versus 59-36 percent among Latino men, totals that replicated almost perfectly the 2016 contest between Trump and Hillary Clinton. Age was a factor as well. Biden came out ahead by 69-28 percent among Latinos under 30, contrasted with 58-40 percent among those over 60 years of age. This is not remarkable, since young white voters also trended similarly toward the Democrats. Evidence suggests that Trump made inroads among non-college educated males, mirroring his strong performance among white males with lower educational levels.

Several factors may account for what some observers deemed a surprising level of Latino support for a president whose explicit racism had not disgraced the presidency since the days of Woodrow Wilson more than a century ago.

  • Cuban-Americans and migrants from Latin American countries who frame their life experiences as resisting or escaping socialism tilted strongly to Trump, whose campaign spent months branding Biden and Democrats more generally as “socialists.” Painting the Democrats as a red menace was critical in Florida, as the Latino vote helped to deliver the state to Trump and unseated Democratic House incumbents from Miami-Dade County.
  • Evangelical Latinos, like evangelical whites, disproportionately cast their votes for Republicans. Just as socially conservative evangelicals have been a powerful force in Latin American elections, they are and will remain so in the United States. Trump’s success in appointing judges opposed to abortion rights and same sex marriage helps to explain his strong performance with this segment of the electorate, some of which identifies as Latino.
  • Law and order was another theme pushed in Trump advertisements and actions. The specter of leftists defunding the police weighed heavily in some sub-sets of the Latino electorate. Images of children in cages that were promulgated by Democratic Party advocates did little to sway voters in Texas, where jobs in policing and border enforcement involve placing migrants in those very cages. This may in part account for Trump’s surprising strength among Latinos in sparsely populated Texas counties in the Rio Grande Valley. While this has attracted the attention of many pundits, this small swath of voters was more than outweighed by unprecedented turnout for the Democratic ticket among urban Latinos in Texas.

A number of factors operated in Biden’s favor. Most important was the government’s grossly inadequate response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected Latinos disproportionately. That a Biden administration would consolidate Obamacare became all the more relevant in the context of the pandemic. The Administration’s assault on immigrant rights mattered as well for many Latino voters.

The impressive margins that Biden racked up among Latinos contributed to his victory in the key battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, and it almost secured the electoral votes of North Carolina. If Latinos – the most rapidly expanding segment of the electorate – continue to favor Democrats, they will prove central to a coalition that might advance the Democrats’ standing in the 2022 mid-term elections and dictate the outcome of the presidential contest in 2024.

  • More immediately, the Latino vote could prove crucial in the January run-off elections for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats, which will determine whether the Biden Administration has a working majority or faces a wall of resistance from Mitch McConnell’s GOP. More than a quarter million Latinos are registered to vote in Georgia, which Biden won by less than 15,000 votes. According to exit polls, Biden won support from Latinos in that state at a rate of 62-39 percent. That is not an overwhelming margin, but in a cliffhanger election that mere 5 percent of the electorate could be critical to determining the relationship between the White House and Senate for the next couple of years.

November 17, 2020

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THE CUBAN ECONOMIC CRISIS: ITS CAUSES AND POSSIBLE POLICIES FOR THE TRANSITION

Carmelo Mesa-Lago (University of Pittsburgh) and Jan Svejnar (Columbia University)

Florida International University, School of Public and International Affairs, October 2020.

A definitive 2020 analysis of Cuba’s current economic situation.

Full document available here: The Cuban Economic Crisis: Its Causes and Possible Policies for the Transition

 

 

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CUBA’S ECONOMIC CRISIS IS SPURRING MUCH-NEEDED ACTION ON REFORMS

William M. LeoGrande, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020

Complete Article:  ACTION ON REFORMS

Cuba’s economy was already struggling before the coronavirus pandemic, due to persistently poor domestic productivity, declining oil shipments from Venezuela and the ratcheting up of U.S. sanctions. But now, the closure of the tourist sector due to COVID-19 has thrown Cuba into a full-fledged recession, deeper than anything since the economic crisis of the 1990s that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union—what Cubans know as the “Special Period.”

Perhaps paradoxically, the downturn also appears to have broken a logjam of disagreement among Cuba’s senior leaders and accelerated the implementation of economic reforms. Reforms entail risks, President Miguel Diaz-Canel told the Council of Ministers this summer, but “the worst risk would be in not changing and in losing popular support.”

In 2011, the Cuban Communist Party approved a new economic policy to promote growth by giving freer rein to market forces; requiring unproductive state-owned enterprises to make a profit, even if it means laying off workers; promoting small private businesses; and attracting foreign direct investment. Over the ensuing years, however, implementation slowed to a glacial pace, at least in part because of resistance from some segments of the Cuban political elite who stood to lose from the changes. With the economy buoyed by cheap oil from Venezuela and a booming tourist sector, the need for reform was less urgent.

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Still, economic growth lagged. GDP increased at an average rate of just 2.1 percent from 2011 to 2019, and only 1.3 percent since 2016. The anemic growth in recent years reflects those declining oil shipments from Venezuela, which Caracas provides in exchange for medical services from Cuban doctors and technicians. In 2016, then-President Raul Castro had to declare an energy emergency and begin rationing fuel to state-owned enterprises.

The one bright spot in the domestic economy has been the spectacular growth of Cuba’s tourist sector in the past three decades. From 1991 to 2018, the number of foreign visitors increased more than 11-fold, from just over 400,000 to 4.7 million. The tourist sector got another big boost in 2014, when then-President Barack Obama agreed with Castro to begin normalizing relations, and the Obama administration eliminated most restrictions on U.S. travel. The number of non-Cuban American U.S. visitors jumped six-fold, from 92,325 in 2014 to a peak of 637,907 in 2018. Including Cuban Americans, U.S. visitors in 2018 comprised about a quarter of all foreign visitors to the island.

But President Donald Trump immediately pledged to “cancel” Obama’s opening to Cuba when he took office in 2017. The Trump administration launched a concerted “maximum pressure” campaign, designed to systematically cut off Cuba’s principal sources of foreign currency. To deter foreign investors, Trump activated Title III of the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act last year, enabling U.S. nationals who lost property after the 1959 revolution, including Cuban Americans, to sue Cuban, U.S. or foreign companies in U.S. federal court for “trafficking” in their confiscated property—that is, making beneficial use of it.

Faithfully executed, the reforms could boost productivity significantly over the next year or two, but shorter-term relief for Cuba will depend on circumstances beyond its control.

The administration also targeted Cuba’s energy supply by imposing sanctions on companies shipping Venezuelan oil to Cuba, aggravating fuel shortages. The State Department pressured other countries to end their partnerships with Cuba’s international medical assistance programs—a major source of foreign exchange earnings for Havana—and conservative governments in Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and El Salvador quickly obliged. The Brazilian program, by far the largest, involved over 11,000 medical personnel, generating $250 million in annual revenue for Cuba.

But Trump’s most serious blows have focused on travel and remittances. The administration eliminated the people-to-people category of legal travel, thereby blocking the majority of non-Cuban American travelers; severed commercial and charter air links to all Cubans cities except Havana; and banned U.S. cruise ships, which carried some 800,000 people to Cuba in 2018, from docking there. This campaign led to a 20 percent drop in the number of foreign visitors to the island in the early months of 2020 before the onset of COVID-19.

Remittances, which Obama removed limits on in 2009, were capped at $1,000 per quarter. Then, just weeks before the presidential election, Trump announced new rules prohibiting Cuban Americans from sending remittances through Cuban money transfer companies run by the armed forces, which includes almost all of them. The restrictions, which are set to go into effect later this month, would produce deep suffering among the roughly 60 percent of Cubans who rely on $3.6 billion in cash remittances annually for sustenance.

Then came the pandemic. Although Cuba has had considerable success containing COVID-19, by virtue of a health care system premised on prevention and a disaster response apparatus second to none, the impact on Cuba’s economy has been catastrophic. In March, Cuba closed the island to all foreign visitors and has only gradually begun to reopen some of the more remote tourist resorts in the Cuban Keys. The closure has cost Cuba some $3 billion in lost revenue; estimates are that GDP has contracted by 8 percent this year. The shortages of basic commodities, including food and medicine, are severe due to the shortage of foreign exchange reserves, and Cuba has been unable to meet its debt service obligations.

The severity of the crisis prompted the Cuban government to finally act on potentially significant economic reforms it previously promised, but which were delayed due to disagreements within the leadership. Perhaps most significantly, the government has indicated that it will soon eliminate the dual currency and exchange rate system—which includes Cuban pesos for domestic use and convertible pesos that are roughly pegged to the dollar. The Cuban pesos have a 25:1 exchange rate with the convertible peso in the retail sector, and 1:1 rate between enterprises—a distortion of value that stimulates imports while discouraging exports and aggravating the country’s foreign exchange crisis.

In July, the government announced that private and cooperative businesses would be allowed to hold convertible foreign currency bank accounts and import and export directly, rather than having to go through government agencies. To prioritize food security, the government reduced price and administrative controls on private and cooperative farms. To generate and capture more remittances, it lifted the 10 percent tax on U.S. dollars entering the country and opened dozens of stores that accept payment in convertible currency.

Faithfully executed, these reforms could boost productivity significantly over the next year or two, but shorter-term relief for Cuba will depend on circumstances beyond its control: the speed at which the pandemic subsides, allowing the tourist sector to reopen; and the policies of the incoming U.S. president. Cubans celebrated openly when Joe Biden won this month’s election, and the government has signaled its willingness to improve relations. During the election campaign, Biden promised to reverse Trump’s sanctions that disrupted family ties and imposed economic hardship on the Cuban people, which could mean a reopening of travel and elimination of Trump’s restrictions on remittances. That would measurably improve the standard of living for the Cuban people, but sustainable development for the long run depends on Cuba completing the reforms necessary to build a productive economy.

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JOE BIDEN: “LAS LIMITACIONES A LAS REMESAS SOLO PERJUDICAN A LAS FAMILIAS CUBANAS”

Original Article: BIDEN ON US POLICY TOWARDS CUBA.

CiberCuba,  29 | 02/11/2020 – 9:19am (GMT-4)

El candidato demócrata a la presidencia de Estados Unidos, Joe Biden, dijo a CiberCuba que empoderar al pueblo cubano será el pilar de su política hacia Cuba, y aseguró que si llega a la Casa Blanca eliminará de inmediato las restricciones a las remesas y viajes a la isla.

“Empoderar al pueblo cubano para determinar su propio futuro es fundamental para la seguridad nacional de Estados Unidos (…) y será la pieza central de mi enfoque”, declaró Biden en entrevista exclusiva con CiberCuba.”Seguiré políticas que reconozcan el ambiente de hoy, empezando con la eliminación de las restricciones de Trump a las remesas y los viajes, las cuales perjudican al pueblo cubano y mantiene a las familias separadas”.

El envío de remesas a Cuba se ha convertido en tema de las campañas electorales luego de una reciente sanción de la administración Trump para evitar que las transacciones financieras sean procesadas por entidades vinculadas al aparato militar cubano.

El exvicepresidente manifestó que el mandatario Donald Trump es el peor abanderado para lograr la democracia en Cuba, y aseguró que una administración Biden-Harris restaurará el Programa de Reunificación Familiar Cubano (CFRP),  favorecerá los asilos a refugiados, y limitará las deportaciones a la isla lo antes posible.

“Las políticas de Trump hacia Cuba han sido un fracaso total”, afirmó Biden.

Tanto la entrevista con Biden como la realizada al presidente Trump en CiberCuba, fueron planeadas desde comienzos de septiembre como parte de la cobertura informativa de nuestra publicación sobre las históricas elecciones de este 3 de noviembre en Estados Unidos. Ambos contendientes políticos  recibieron simultáneamente sus respectivos cuestionarios de 12 preguntas sobre temas diversos de la política hacia Cuba y la comunidad cubanoamericana.

Biden accedió a responder cinco preguntas del cuestionario enviado por CiberCuba. Interrogantes sobre la Ley de Ajuste Cubano, la posibilidad de levantar el embargo, los programas federales de ayuda a la sociedad civil y la oposición política en Cuba, y la opción de desactivar los títulos III y IV de la Ley Helms-Burton, quedaron pendientes para un próximo diálogo.

Entrevista en CiberCuba al candidato demócrata Joe Biden

CiberCuba: ¿Cuál será su primer paso respecto a la actual política hacia Cuba si usted llega a presidencia de Estados Unidos?

Joe Biden: Las políticas de Trump hacia Cuba han sido un fracaso total. Las represiones por parte del régimen sólo han aumentado bajo su mandato. Como presidente, mi política se regirá por dos principios: primero que los estadounidenses, los cubanoamericanos en particular, son los mejores embajadores por la libertad en Cuba. En segundo lugar, empoderar al pueblo cubano para determinar su propio futuro es fundamental para la seguridad nacional de Estados Unidos. La situación de hoy en Cuba no es igual a la situación hace cuatro años y yo seguiré políticas que reconozcan el ambiente de hoy, empezando con la eliminación de las restricciones de Trump a las remesas y los viajes, las cuales perjudican al pueblo cubano y mantiene a las familias separadas. También abordaré el atraso de más de 20 mil visas que ha aumentado bajo la administración Trump, exigiré la liberación de los presos políticos y defenderé los derechos humanos en Cuba, tal como lo hice cuando era vicepresidente.

CiberCuba: Una de las sanciones más severas decretadas por Trump han sido las prohibiciones de vuelos regulares y fletados, y la limitación de los envíos de remesas a Cuba. ¿Cuál es su plan para revertir ambas medidas?

Joe Biden: En medio de una pandemia mundial, cuando tantas familias están profundamente impactadas, el presidente Trump le está negando a los cubanoamericanos el derecho a mantener a sus familias en la isla. Una vez más, deja claro que su supuesto “apoyo” al pueblo cubano no es más que una retórica política vacía.

La administración de Trump está deportando a cientos de cubanos de vuelta a la dictadura. Hay casi 10.000 cubanos languideciendo en campamentos de tiendas a lo largo de la frontera con México por culpa de la agenda antiinmigrante de Trump. Y está separando a las familias cubanas mediante restricciones cada vez más severas en cuanto a las visitas familiares y las remesas. Nada de esto ayuda al pueblo cubano. Nada de esto ha avanzado la democracia en Cuba.

Donald Trump es el peor abanderado posible para alcanzar la democracia en Cuba, porque ha consentido a los autócratas en todo el mundo, como Vladimir Putin en Rusia. Durante toda mi carrera he defendido la democracia y los derechos humanos, la libertad de prensa, de reunión y religión, y he luchado contra los dictadores tanto de izquierda como de derecha.

Las limitaciones a las remesas en particular solo perjudican a las familias cubanas, especialmente a los ancianos y más vulnerables, tanto en la isla como en nuestro país. Tanto los estadounidenses como los cubanos no pueden permitirse cuatro años más de liderazgo débil, palabras vacías y promesas incumplidas de Trump.

CiberCuba: Los cambios en la política migratoria han provocado una concentración de cubanos en espera de una audiencia de asilo en México, mientras otras decenas permanecen arrestados en cárceles de inmigración de EE.UU. bajo un trato cuestionable y amenaza de deportación. ¿Qué haría usted  ante esta situación?

Joe Biden: Lo que está haciendo la Administración Trump es inconcebible: deportar a cientos de cubanos a una dictadura y obligar a casi 10.000 cubanos a languidecer en campamentos de tiendas de campaña a lo largo de la frontera mexicana, todo para avanzar en la cruzada anti inmigrante de esta administración. Estados Unidos puede defender tanto la seguridad de nuestra frontera como nuestros valores como nación de inmigrantes. Debemos restaurar nuestro compromiso histórico con las personas buscando asilo y los refugiados. Mi plan de inmigración pondrá fin a las perjudiciales políticas de asilo de Trump, comenzando con los Protocolos de Protección al Migrante [PPM] de Trump, y restablecerá nuestras leyes de asilo para que hagan lo que deberían hacer: proteger a las personas que huyen de la persecución y que no pueden regresar a casa de manera segura. Vamos a poner fin a la detención prolongada y los centros de detención con fines de lucro y reinvertiremos en programas de gestión de casos, que permiten a los migrantes vivir con dignidad y seguridad mientras esperan sus audiencias judiciales, y que son la mejor manera de garantizar que los solicitantes de asilo asistan a todas las audiencias de inmigración requeridas. Además, restauraremos las prioridades de ejecución sensatas para que las personas trabajadoras que nunca han cometido un delito grave no sean objeto de deportación.

CiberCuba: Una de los quejas fundamentales de la comunidad cubana en Estados Unidos es la paralización del Programa de Reunificación Familiar desde hace tres años. ¿Qué puede usted decirle a las familias que reclaman la reactivación de este beneficio migratorio? 

Joe Biden: Una administración de Biden y Harris reabrirá vías para la migración segura y legal de la isla, incluyendo el Programa de Permiso de Reunificación Familiar Cubano (CFRP) y el programa de refugiados cubanos lo antes posible. El opresivo régimen cubano no debería evitar que los estadounidenses –y los cubanoamericanos en especial– ayuden a sus familias y amigos en Cuba.

CiberCuba: La actual administración ha justificado sus sanciones contra Cuba con el criterio de castigar a las esferas militares que controlan turismo y negocios en el país y limitar su apoyo al régimen de Nicolás Maduro en Venezuela. ¿Qué piensa usted sobre estas sanciones? ¿Las levantaría o las negociaría?

Joe Biden: Las políticas de Trump no han tenido éxito. Los dictadores permanecen atrincherados en el poder tanto en Cuba como en Venezuela. Las sanciones son una herramienta importante, pero no son nuestra única herramienta y deben formar parte de una estrategia más amplia para lograr los resultados que queremos. El objetivo es más libertad para las personas que viven bajo regímenes opresivos. Si las sanciones ayudan a avanzar en ese objetivo, las utilizaré. Y a diferencia de Trump, protegeré a las personas que huyen de la opresión de estas dictaduras. Trump ha hecho que sea casi imposible para los solicitantes de asilo, incluso hacer el reclamo legal al que tienen derecho. El presidente Trump y los republicanos del Senado se han negado repetidamente a otorgar el estatus de protección temporal [TPS] a los venezolanos que huyen del régimen de Maduro. Yo se los otorgaré. En Cuba, empoderar al pueblo cubano será la pieza central de mi enfoque. Y me aseguraré de que todos los solicitantes de asilo, incluidos los de Cuba y Nicaragua, reciban una consideración justa.

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WESTERN UNION TO CLOSE 407 OFFICES IN CUBA

WESTERN UNION TO CLOSE 407 OFFICES IN CUBA

TRUMP’S NEW TURN OF THE SCREW TO PUT ECONOMIC PRESSURE ON CUBA OCCURRED JUST OVER A WEEK BEFORE THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.

By OnCubaNews Staff, October 28, 2020,  in Cuba-USA

Original Article: OnCubaNews: Western Union in Cuba

Cuba confirmed that the 407 Western Union payment points in the country will close due to the sanctions recently announced by the Donald Trump administration, which prohibit the sending of remittances from the United States to the island through official channels.

The financial services firm Fincimex denounced in a statement that remittances to Cuba “will be totally interrupted” by closing the Western Union offices, when the ban on sending money to the island through companies controlled by the Cuban Armed Forces comes into force on November 26.

Foreign companies that want to operate in Cuba must have a state counterpart. Western Union has monopolized the cash reception service on the island since 2016 through a partnership with Fincimex, linked to the military conglomerate GAESA.

“The responsibility for the interruption of the remittance service between the two countries falls on the U.S. government,” said the Cuban state financier, after ensuring that the closure of Western Union will harm “the Cuban people and their families in the U.S.”

The interruption of the flow of dollars via Western Union occurs at a particularly delicate moment: the balance of payments crisis in Cuba is today more serious than ever and the State is trying by all means to raise foreign currency to pay its accumulated debts and import the products demanded by its population.

Biden’s campaign criticizes blocking of remittances to CubansOctober 29, 2020

 Elections: Democratic binomial would repeal Trump’s Cuba policiesOctober 27, 2020

In addition, the restriction promises to hit many Cubans hard at a time of increasing shortages of food and basic items due to the pandemic, which forced the country to close its borders to tourism and family travel in April.

When there were daily flights between the two countries, a large part of the dollars arrived in Cuba through informal channels or private agencies, brought directly by relatives from the United States or by Cubans traveling to the neighboring country.

A year ago this type of transaction had already started running into obstacles when Washington vetoed all commercial flights to Cuba except Havana. This informal option disappeared with the closure of airports due to the pandemic, which is why Western Union has gained prominence in recent months as it is the only company that formally processes remittances from the United States to the island.

On the other hand, in recent weeks many Cuban remittance recipients have protested the fact that the dollars that were sent to them from the U.S. reached their hands converted into convertible pesos or CUC, an artificial currency equivalent to 1:1 to the dollar although devalued in the informal market.

This is especially relevant, since Cuba currently applies a “partial dollarization” that forces the payment of part of the goods and services in foreign currency, while Cuban banknotes are not accepted in supermarkets and better-stocked stores.

In its statement today, Fincimex alleged, without further details, that at this time it was immersed in “negotiations” for Western Union shipments to arrive in dollars to bank accounts.

Trump’s new turn of the screw to put economic pressure on Cuba occurred just over a week before the U.S. presidential elections, which is why many consider it part of his campaign to win votes from conservative Cubans in the key state of Florida.

In any case, the president has strengthened the sanctions during his almost four years in office, in which he has reversed the “thaw” policy of his predecessor, Barack Obama, who had opted for rapprochement, softened the embargo and facilitated the reestablishment of bilateral diplomatic relations.

EFE/OnCuba

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CUBA: U.S. POLICY IN THE 16TH CONGRESS

May 14, 2020

Mark P. Sullivan, Specialist in Latin American Affairs

[A useful and bi-partisan summary of US policy towards Cuba that I missed when it came out in May 2020.  Thanks to Mike Wiggin, of Ottawa Canada, for bringing it to my attention.]

Original Report: Cuba: U.S. Policy in the 116th Congress

 

SUMMARY

Political and economic developments in Cuba, a one-party authoritarian state with a poor human rights record, frequently have been the subject of intense congressional concern since the1959 Cuban revolution.

Current Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel succeeded Raúl Castro in April 2018, but Castro continues to head Cuba’s Communist Party. A new constitution took effect in 2019 that introduced some political and economic reforms but maintained the state sector’s dominance over the economy and the Communist Party’s predominant role.

Over the past decade, Cuba has implemented gradual market-oriented economic policy changes, but it has not taken enough action to foster sustainable economic growth. The Cuban economy is being hard-hit by Venezuela’s economic crisis, which has reduced Venezuela’s support for Cuba and increased U.S. economic sanctions, and by the economic shutdown in response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Cuba’s economy faces a contraction of more than 8% in 2020. The global contraction in economic growth, trade, foreign investment, and tourism likely will slow post-COVID economic recovery.

U.S. Policy

Since the early 1960s, the centerpiece of U.S. policy toward Cuba has been economic sanctions aimed at isolating the Cuban government. Congress has played an active role in shaping policy toward Cuba, including by enacting legislation strengthening, and at times easing, U.S. economic sanctions. In 2014, however, the Obama Administration initiated a policy shift away from sanctions and toward a policy of engagement. This shift included the restoration of diplomatic relations (July 2015); the rescission of Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of international terrorism (May 2015); and an increase in travel, commerce, and the flow of information to Cuba implemented through regulatory changes.

In 2017, President Trump unveiled a new policy toward Cuba that introduced new sanctions and rolled back some of the Obama Administration’s efforts to normalize relations. In September 2017, the State Department reduced the staff of the U.S. Embassy by about two-thirds in response to unexplained health injuries of members of the U.S. diplomatic community in Havana. The reduction affected embassy operations, especially visa processing.

In November 2017, the State Department restricted financial transactions with over 200 business entities controlled by the Cuban military, intelligence, and security services; the so-called restricted list has been updated several times, most recently in November 2019.

Legislative Activity in the 116thCongress

The 116th Congress has continued to fund democracy assistance for Cuba and U.S. government-sponsored broadcasting to Cuba. For FY2019, Congress appropriated $20 million for democracy programs and $29.1 million for Cuba broadcasting (P.L. 116-6, H. Rept. 116-9). For FY2020, Congress appropriated $20 million for democracy programs and $20.973 million for Cuba broadcasting (P.L. 116-94, Division G); Division J of P.L. 116-94 includes benefits for U.S. government employees and dependents injured while stationed in Cuba. The measure includes several Cuba reporting requirements in H. Rept. 116-78 and S. Rept. 116-126.

Congress has begun consideration of the Administration’s FY2021 budget request of $10 million for Cuba democracy programs and $12.973 million for Cuba broadcasting.

Among bills introduced in the 116th Congress, several would ease or lift U.S. sanctions in Cuba: H.R. 213 (baseball); S. 428(trade); H.R. 1898/S. 1447 (U.S. agricultural exports); H.R. 2404 (overall embargo); and H.R. 3960/S. 2303(travel). H.R. 4884 would direct the Administration to reinstate the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program. Several resolutions would express concerns regarding Cuba’s foreign medical missions (S. Res. 14/H. Res. 136); U.S. fugitives from justice in Cuba (H. Res. 92/S. Res. 232); religious and political freedom in Cuba (S. Res. 215); and the release of human rights activist José Daniel Ferrer and other Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) members (S. Res. 454 and H. Res. 774). S. Res. 531 would honor Las Damas de Blanco, a Cuban human rights organization, and call for the release of all political prisoners.

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OUTLOOK

When Miguel Díaz-Canel succeeded Raúl Castro as president in April 2018, a leader from a new generation came to power—Díaz-Canel currently is 60 years old. Nevertheless, Raúl Castro, currently 88 years old, will remain until 2021 in the politically influential position of first secretary of Cuba’s Communist Party.

In February 2019, almost 87% of Cubans approved a new constitution in a national referendum, which included such changes as the addition of an appointed prime minister to oversee government operations; limits on the president’s tenure (two five-year terms) and age (60, beginning first term); and market-oriented economic reforms, including the right to private property and the promotion of foreign investment. The new constitution also ensures the state sector’s dominance over the economy and the predominant role of the Communist Party.

In 2019, pursuant to the new constitution, Cuba’s National Assembly appointed Díaz-Canel as president in October, and Díaz-Canel appointed Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz as prime minister in December. Further implementation of constitutional reforms could be delayed as Cuba confronts the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cuban economy is being been hard-hit by the government’s economic shutdown to stem the COVID-19 pandemic; some observers project a contraction of more than 8% for the Cuban economy in 2020. Moreover, Cuba’s economic recovery is likely to be slow because of the global economic outlook for trade, investment, and tourism. In this environment, reduced support from Venezuela and increased U.S. economic sanctions, which already were negatively affecting the economy, will contribute to Cuba’s bleak future economic prospects.

The Trump Administration’s ramped-up sanctions on Cuba in 2019, aimed at deterring Cuba’s support for Venezuela, have heightened tensions in relations, stymied U.S. business engagement in Cuba, and negatively affected Cuba’s nascent private sector. The 2017 downsizing of the staff at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, done in response to unexplained injuries to U.S. diplomatic personnel in Cuba, resulted in the suspension of most visa processing at the embassy and reduced other embassy operations.

As in past Congresses, there are diverse opinions in the 116th Congress regarding the appropriate U.S. policy approach toward Cuba, with some Members supporting the Administration’s actions and others preferring a policy of engagement.  Although various legislative initiatives have been introduced to ease or lift various U.S. sanctions, no action has been taken on these measures. With the exception of congressional opposition to funding cuts for Cuba democracy programs and Cuba broadcasting in annual appropriations measures, no congressional action has been taken opposing the Administration’s imposition of various sanctions on Cuba.

 

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WHY FLORIDA’S CUBAN POPULATION IS SUSCEPTIBLE TO TRUMP’S PROPAGANDA

Opinion by Alexandra Martinez

CNN, Updated 6:32 PM ET, Wed September 30, 2020

Original Article: Cuban-American Susceptibility to Trump’s Propaganda

Why Florida is a battleground state like no other

Alexandra Martinez is an award-winning Cuban American writer based in Miami, Florida. Her work has appeared in Vice, Catapult Magazine, and Miami New Times. Find her at alexandra-martinez.net. The views expressed in this commentary are her own.

 

Alexandra Martinez

On a blistering August morning in 1973, my grandparents, mom and aunt left Cuba. My maternal grandparents had met as a result of the Revolution; my abuela (grandmother) was a volunteer teacher in the literacy movement, and my abuelo (grandfather) was a technician and organizer who helped remove the previous dictator, Fulgencio Batista, and was exiled to Venezuela.

After 1959, he was allowed to return and was celebrated by the Revolution. As the years passed, their living conditions and civil liberties withered. It became abundantly clear that Cuban dictator Fidel Castro would not uphold the rights of the people they had fought for. They spent five years being called gusanos (worms) while my abuelo labored in a forced-work agricultural camp to earn his family’s exit. When they were granted permission to leave, they left behind everything they had ever known: generations of family, their homes, and a bittersweet love for their island. Their only solace was the flickering thought that their young daughters would have a better life.

Today, my 80-year-old abuela lives in her dream home in the predominantly Latino suburb of Miami, Kendall, a house she and my late abuelo built as the fruit of their decades of labor, wistful regret, and trauma after leaving their homeland. Her story is not unlike those of others in Miami’s Cuban-born community, which in 2017 accounted for more than a quarter of Miami-Dade County’s population and six percent of Florida’s voting power, according to 2016 exit polls.

Continue Reading: Cuban-American Susceptibility to Trump’s Propaganda

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TRUMP CONNED MIAMI’S CUBAN-AMERICAN SUPPORTERS WHILE CHASING BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES IN CUBA

By Fabiola Santiago

Miami Herald, September 22, 2020 05:35 PM,
Once again, the truth about what President Donald Trump really thinks about Cuba has come to light.

He may peddle the hard line to his Republican Cuban-American supporters in Miami, but when he looks south of the city, he only sees dollar signs.

He promises that he won’t do business until Cuba is free of the Castro brothers’ regime — and prohibits Americans from traveling to the island — but Trump and his team have been chasing business opportunities in Cuba for the past decade.

A new el Nuevo Herald report has unearthed more proof of how seriously Trump tried to gain a foothold in Cuba, despite the U.S. embargo that’s in place.

Documents show that the president applied to register his Trump trademark in Cuba in 2008 so he could conduct business and invest in real estate. His plans included not only erecting a Trump Tower in Havana and putting a golf course in Varadero and other possible sites, but building casinos as well.

To do so, Trump hired a Cuban lawyer on the island, Leticia Laura Bermúdez Benítez.

A screenshot of the Cuban Industrial Property Office website shows details of the Trump trademark application — which included beauty pageants.

A screenshot of the Cuban Industrial Property Office website showing details of the Trump trademark registered in Cuba. 

Trump plays both sides

To truly gauge Trump’s cretinous hustler nature, you have to go back to 1999 when he was already courting Cuban Americans with anti-Fidel Castro rhetoric and hinting at a presidential run.

He was betting on an aging Castro dying soon. The way Trump saw it, the wealthy members of the Cuban American National Foundation were going to be the ones calling the shots on the island.

“So what Jorge is saying is that when Cuba is free, I get the first hotel? Is that true? Sounds like a good deal to me,” Trump quipped during a CANF speech, referring to Jorge Mas Santos, who had taken the reins of the influential organization after his father died in 1997.

Ever the Conman: Trump courting the Cuban  American National Foundation – while registering his brand in Cuba.

It was a crass thing to say — and harmful to efforts to democratize Cuba, and not install a U.S. puppet government to service the likes of Trump — but Cuban Americans laughed and later applauded him.

That year, Trump also wrote an op-ed in the Miami Herald slamming Castro, which prompted the Brigade 2506, veterans of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, to correspond with Trump and begin a relationship that would culminate with their endorsement in 2016 and again in 2020.
See also: Herald falsely claims as its own, story on Trump and his interest in Cuban hotels disclosed by Progreso Weekly, By Álvaro Fernández Last updated Sep 30, 2020

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JOE BIDEN WILL HAVE TO WIN BACK CUBA’S TRUST IF HE WANTS TO REVIVE OBAMA-ERA THAW IN RELATIONS, SAYS EX-U.S. DIPLOMAT

NEWSWEEK,  David Brennan April 16, 2020

This week marked five years since President Barack Obama requested that Congress revoke Cuba’s designation as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism,” a key step in re-establishing diplomatic relations with the Caribbean nation after decades of antagonism between the Cold War foes.

Obama went on to become the first U.S. president to visit the island since 1928, lift some travel restrictions and reopen the U.S. embassy in Havana, closed since 1961. The then-president hailed the thaw and described his visit as an “extraordinary honor.”

The move faced opposition from both sides of the U.S. political spectrum. Anti-normalization figures pointed to the historic human rights abuses on the part of the island’s revolutionary and totalitarian regime, plus its seizure of private property—including that owned by Americans.

When President Donald Trump came into office, he announced he was “canceling” the deals struck between the Obama administration and Cuba. Though some of the agreements remain in place, Trump oversaw new financial sanctions on regime figures and fresh travel restrictions.

But with the November presidential election looming, another shift in U.S.-Cuba relations could be on the cards. Presumptive Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden was part of the administration that upended the long campaign against Cuba, though in recent months has attacked former rival Sen. Bernie Sanders for praising the regime’s achievements.

Biden was critical of the Cuban regime before the Obama-led detente, supporting existing trade embargoes on the island. But the former vice president dropped his opposition in support of the president, and has since criticized the “outdated” antagonistic ideology towards Cuba and trade and travel restrictions, which he described as forming an “ineffective stumbling block” to relations with other nations in the Americas.

Biden was fiercely critical of Trump’s decision to undo Obama policy, describing the new president’s wider Latin America approach as a “Cold War-era retread and, at worst, at worst, an ineffective mess.”

Biden argued that Trump’s restrictions would throttle Cuban entrepreneurs—undermining their independence from the communist regime—and limit the ability of Cubans in the U.S. to support their families at home.

Asked to comment on Biden’s Cuba stance, a campaign spokesperson pointed Newsweek to an interview with the former vice president published in Americas Quarterly in March.

“As president, I will promptly reverse the failed Trump policies that have inflicted harm on the Cuban people and done nothing to advance democracy and human rights,” Biden said, lauding Americans “and especially Cuban-Americans” as the “best ambassadors for freedom” on the island.

Jeffrey DeLaurentis served as Obama’s top diplomat in Cuba, and was nominated as ambassador to the island though was never approved by the Republican-controlled Senate. He told Newsweek he believes that any new president would have the backing of “the majority of the American public,” which supports a better relationship with Cuba “despite the differences we may have.”

“The current administration’s decision to roll back the opening just repeats a failed policy from the past,” DeLaurentis believes. “You can’t continue doing the same thing and hope for a different result.”

DeLaurentis argued that better cooperation between the U.S. and Cuba on issues including migration, counter-narcotics and climate change could improve American national security. Any such policies should “help, not hurt, the Cuban people,” he added.

Prominent lawmakers—particularly in Florida where some represent much of the Cuban diaspora that fled Fidel Castro’s revolution—have long believed the price of negotiating is too high. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio—the son of Cuban migrants—is one of the most prominent among Republicans, and according to Politico has more or less masterminded Trump’s Cuba strategy.

After Sanders recently praised some elements of the regime in Cuba and suggested its achievements had the support of many Cubans, Rubio shot back noting that the Castro brothers retained power because dissidents had been “jailed, murdered or exiled.” During his unsuccessful run for president, Rubio suggested Obama’s Cuba policies were “in violation of the law.”

The Cuban diaspora represents an important electoral question for Biden and Trump. A hard line on the regime in Havana could swing some Cuban descendants behind the Republican party in Florida—a vital swing state.

“The Trump administration already has the 2020 elections in mind,” DeLaurentis suggested. “And so clearly the policies are designed to secure maximum popularity with a certain constituency in a key state.” Indeed, Trump made a point of attacking his predecessor’s Cuba strategy in his most recent State of the Union address, claiming to be “standing up for freedom in our hemisphere.”

Cuban-Americans are not a voting monolith, but the scars of the revolution run deep. When Sanders praised the regime, Florida Democrats rushed to condemn his remarks and demand an apology. “Donald Trump wins Florida if Bernie is our nominee,” warned Rep. Javier Fernandez.

The Trump administration maintains that Cuba is a malign power that needs to be contained, not negotiated with. A spokesperson for the president’s re-election campaign told Newsweek that Trump “has held Cuba’s corrupt communist government accountable for its actions, reversing the failed policies of the Obama-Biden administration.”

The spokesperson claimed, “If it were up to Joe Biden, America would revert back to sympathizing with communists and implementing foreign policy that compromises our national security and weakens our standing in [the] world.”

Elsewhere, the Cuban regime is deeply involved in Venezuela, propping up beleaguered President Nicolas Maduro who has been indicted in the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has identified Cuba as a central facilitator of Maduro’s regime.

A senior Pentagon official told Newsweek earlier this month that U.S. intelligence “has evidence that Maduro is trafficking drugs using naval vessels between Venezuela and Cuba,” an allegation denied by the Cuban government.

The Biden campaign spokesperson who spoke to Newsweek declined to comment on questions regarding Cuba’s influence in Venezuela and the allegations of drug smuggling.

DeLaurentis said that Cuba’s role in Venezuela would “certainly be one of the big challenges” for any president who wished to revive relations with Havana. “In this situation, you can’t negotiate with just the people you want to negotiate with, you have to negotiate with the people who are involved,” he said.

But after three years of Trump, there is no guarantee that Cuba would be willing to come back to the table. “You would have to make an effort to win back their trust,” DeLaurentis said. “Although a number of Cuban officials have indicated that they’d certainly be willing to return to the negotiating table.”

The Cuban foreign ministry did not reply to Newsweek‘s request for comment.

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