The US announced new sanctions on Cuban officials on Thursday as the Biden administration continues a hardline approach towards Havana.
Thursday’s sanctions marked the fourth round since anti-government protests took place in the country in July. The sanctions targeted two military officials and one prison official.
Considering Cuba has been under a US trade embargo for over 60 years, sanctions on government officials have virtually no impact, but they do send a message that the Biden administration has no plans to ease the pressure.
As a candidate, President Biden vowed to return to the Obama-era Cuba policies. The Obama administration took steps towards normalization with Havana but never filled lifted the trade embargo, so the steps were easily reversed by Trump.
One reason that Biden could be taking a hardline approach to Cuba is to secure more votes in Florida for the next election. Democrats have traditionally done very well in the Miami-Dade country of Florida, which is home to many Cuban Americans. In 2016, Trump won the state of Florida, but Hillary Clinton won Miami-Dade by nearly 30 percent. In 2020, President Biden won the county, but only by about 7.5 percent.
Biden’s Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who is Cuban-born himself, visited Miami Thursday and met with Cuban American activists. One Cuban American who met with Mayorkas said the 2020 election results in Miami-Dade were a “wake-up call” for the Democrats.
Mayorkas was vague with reporters when asked about Biden’s Cuba policies. “The Biden-Harris administration will develop its policy toward Cuba in support of the Cuban people with the Cuban American community,” he said.
Last month, in the wake of anti-government protests in Cuba and the assassination of Haiti’s president, Mayorkas, whose family fled Cuba after the revolution in 1959, delivered a warning to Cubans and Haitians not to come to the US. “The time is never right to attempt migration by sea,” he said. “Allow me to be clear: If you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States.”