President Joe Biden on Monday ordered the State Department to create a working group to review federal remittance policy to ensure that the money that Cuban-Americans send to Cuba reaches the hands of their relatives without the regimen gets its cut.
He also ordered a review of the feasibility of increasing the staff of the US embassy in Havana. The White House hopes that a staff increase can help facilitate engagement with civil society after one of the largest demonstrations against the island’s socialist government in recent history.
Details of the measures were provided by a senior government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the Biden administration has not yet announced them publicly.
Just over a week ago, thousands of Cubans took to the streets of Havana and other cities on the island to protest food shortages and high prices during the coronavirus crisis. It is a level of frustration that has not been seen in Cuba in more than 60 years.
Biden is also urging the government to work with Congress to identify options for greater internet access in Cuban territory. The regime acted swiftly to cut off access to the global network and prevent images of the demonstrations from being released to the rest of the world. Republican lawmakers, including Senator Marco Rubio, have urged Biden to make free satellite internet available to dissidents to help thwart the Cuban government’s attempts to prevent activists from posting their messages on social media.
The US government will also seek to collaborate with international organizations to increase humanitarian assistance, while the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Department of the Treasury will analyze the possibility of applying sanctions to Cuban officials who committed human rights violations against peaceful protesters. in Cuba, the official said.
Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to Biden, and Juan González, a senior National Security Council official, met with Cuban-American leaders on Monday to hear their recommendations and concerns following the protests, the White House said.
Congress has been pressuring Biden to take action on the Cuban government. Last week the president said that Cuba was a “failed state” that was “repressing its citizens.”
But Biden also hinted that taking effective action is complicated.
“There are several things that we would consider doing to help the Cuban people, but it would require a different circumstance or a guarantee that the government would not take advantage of them,” said the president. “For example, the ability to send remittances to Cuba. We would not do that at this time because the fact is that the regime is highly likely to confiscate those remittances or a large part of them. “
The drastic reduction of personnel in the Cuban embassy began in 2017, and was not related to the antipathy of the government of then President Donald Trump regarding the unfreezing of relations with the island that his predecessor, Barack Obama, began.
The protests took place in the midst of a serious economic and health crisis due to COVID-19. (The Associated Press)
The demonstration gave way to repression. Police officers arrest a man when people demonstrate today, on a street in Havana. (Ernesto Mastrascusa)
A man is arrested by the authorities in the middle of a protest in Havana. (The Associated Press)
The protests were marked by the rules of “freedom” and “homeland and life.” (The Associated Press)
Police fight and arrest an anti-government protester during a protest in Havana. (The Associated Press)
A Police officer gets out of a truck to transport people detained during a protest in Havana. (The Associated Press)
Police detain an anti-government protester during a protest in Havana. (The Associated Press)
Sympathizers of the regime organized a counter-protest outside the Capitol in Havana. (The Associated Press)
The arrests came after Cuban President Miguel Díaz Canel called on his supporters to take to the streets. (The Associated Press)
Pro-government protesters came to the Maximo Gómez monument in Havana. (The Associated Press)
Rather, the removal of staff from the US diplomatic headquarters began in the middle of that year in response to unexplained brain injuries suffered by diplomats, spies and other US government employees stationed on the island.
The Trump administration also tried to reverse many of Obama’s initiatives, again imposing restrictions that prohibited direct commercial flights by US airlines to various airports on the island, as well as the arrival of US-registered cruise ships.
Trump also severely restricted the remittances that Cuban-Americans were allowed to send to their relatives on the island, prohibited financial and commercial transactions with most Cuban companies affiliated with the government or the armed forces, and, in his last days in office, He re-designated Cuba as a “State promoter of terrorism”, in part because of the support it gives to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
During his presidential campaign, Biden said he would reinstate the Obama administration’s policies that eased decades of embargo restrictions against Havana. For its part, the political right in the United States has accused him of not giving sufficient support to Cuban dissidents. So far, the Biden administration has said it is conducting a review of the country’s policies toward Cuba, and has done little to distance itself from Trump’s stance on the socialist regime.
Some of the more liberal members of the Democratic Party, particularly Federal Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have criticized the Cuban government but have also urged Biden to lift the embargo, a policy they say contributes to the suffering of the Cuban people.