JOE Biden must re-engage with Havana or risk continuing Donald Trump’s ineffective Cuba policy, an expert has warned.
Trump was notoriously hawkish on Cuba, claiming that Barack Obama’s decision to thaw relations, labelling the former President’s policy a “weak, pathetic, one-sided deal.”
However, “hostility and sanctions” have acheived little since the 1959 revolution, according to Professor William LeoGrande of American University.
He predicted Biden will continue Obama’s softer Cuba policy, telling Redaction Politics: “Biden will re-engage with Cuba for the same reason that President Obama did: it serves US national interests, and a policy of hostility and sanctions accomplished nothing in sixty years.”
Like many in the Oval Office before him, Trump was keen to oust the socialist Cuban government.
Historical intervention attempts have notoriously failed, even after Fidel Castro’s death.
However, economic sanctions have proved harsh on the people of Cuba, rather than the leadership.
Dr Christopher Sabtini wrote in Chatham House that the measures may “hurt the very people that the policy claims to defend.”
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For critics of the Cuban leadership, he added, “they also serve as a rallying point for the Castro regime and a way to cover up for its own economic failures.”
Mr LeoGrande added: “President Trump was explicit about his support for regime change, imposing sanctions that have done serious harm to the standard of living of everyday Cubans.
“Biden has promised to lift those sanctions and return to a policy of engagement rather than regime change.
“People in the street in Havana cheered and honked their horns when Biden was declared the winner, simply because Trump’s sanctions were making their lives miserable.
“Cuban leaders will be cautiously optimistic that bilateral relations will improve, but they will wait to see exactly what Biden does once he enters the White House. Actions speak louder than words.”
Some experts have touted that Biden will take a softer line on Latin America in general – contrary to the infamous Monroe Doctrine – and take a more hands-off approach on Venezuela and Bolivia than his predecessor.
However, last month Professor Daniel Hellinger told Redaction Politics that Biden’s “major show of endorsing Juan Guaido” may stress Caracas-Washington relations even further from the off.
Professor LeoGrande said the trio of countries are vastly different and each will be treated as such, however.
“I don’t think the situation in Bolivia or Venezuela have impacted Biden’s pledge to return to a policy of engagement with Cuba, but the sharp differences between Cuba and the United States over how to solve the Venezuelan crisis will be a major issue between them,” he added.
William LeoGrande is a Professor of Government at American University and coauthor of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana.