As a candidate, President Biden vowed to return to the Obama-era policy on Cuba, work towards normalization with Havana, and ease sanctions reimposed by the Trump administration. But over six months into his presidency, Biden has taken no steps to do so, despite claims that he supports the people of Cuba after recent anti-government protests.
Reporting from Havana, AFP spoke with a Cuban academic who said most Cubans are “disappointed” with Biden’s lack of action. The report said most Cubans welcomed Biden’s election after four years of worsening US-Cuba relations and the implementation of sanctions.
“Obviously, he’s disappointed many who hoped, not that he would return to the Obama policies, but that he would reverse Trump’s crudest measures,” said Carlos Alzugaray, a former Cuban diplomat.
One of the crueler measures imposed by the Trump administration were sanctions that ended remittances from the US to Cuba, making it more difficult for Cuban Americans to send money home to their families. On Thursday, Biden said that he wouldn’t ease the restrictions on remittances.
Biden said he couldn’t lift the remittances sanctions because the Cuban government would “confiscate” or take “big chunks” of the money. But whatever fee the Cuban government charges for remittances is worth to the hundreds of thousands of Cuban Americans who used to send them each year.
Before the restrictions, about 700,000 people in the US sent remittances to Cuba annually, and Western Union transferred between $900 million to $1.5 billion to the country each year.
While President Obama took steps towards normalization with Havana, he never fully lifted the decades-old trade embargo, making it easy for Trump to reverse his measures. Trump also reimposed travel restrictions for US citizens, sanctions on goods like cigars and liquor, and redesignated Cuba as a state sponsor of terror.