Center for a Free Cuba statement on new Biden Administration “measures to support the Cuban people”

Center for a Free Cuba statement on new Biden Administration “measures to support the Cuban people”

The Biden Administration has announced what they described as “new measures to support the Cuban people.” One day earlier, the Cuban dictatorship approved a new penal code that further clamps down on independent journalists and human rights defenders with “penalties of 10 to 30 years—in extreme cases, even death” for giving “information to international organizations, associations, or even people who have not been authorized by the government.” Is this the proper moment to make one-sided concessions, yet again, to a military dictatorship?

The State Department released a fact sheet that claims they are “taking a series of measures” to increase support for Cubans in line with U.S. national security interests, but some of the specific actions empower the dictatorship and may endanger Americans. 

The Center welcomes the reunification of Cuban families, but the other elements of the measures outlined  raise concerns. Furthermore we lament that these measures do not address the fundamental root cause of the island’s humanitarian crisis: the internal blockade imposed by the dictatorship on Cubans, which reflects the totalitarian nature of the regime.

As we have seen, engagement with the communist dictatorship of China over the past 40 years, in a bipartisan consensus, has been costly both in terms of American lives, and in abandoning Chinese democrats. This pattern was repeated on a smaller scale during the 2009 – 2017 detente with Cuba.  Repression skyrocketed, opposition leaders were killed, jailed, or exiled, and U.S. diplomats were victims of health attacks in Havana, with many of the victims suffering brain damage.  The proposed new measures would increase the probability of such actions on the part of the regime.

Such measures do not address the need for a humanitarian corridor to directly assist Cubans.  The Cuban military through its conglomerate, the Grupo de Administración Empresarial S.A. (GAESA), and its sub-entity Gaviota, the military’s tourism arm, will profit from the expansion of authorized travel.  Expansion of travel does not support the oppressed Cuban people, but their oppressor.

With regards to U.S. national security, the educational exchanges have been used by Havana to recruit spies, blackmail Americans, and insert intelligence officials in academic conferences to  act as agents of influence and to spy. Why would we want to expand opportunities for these activities?

The family reunification policy will help some Cubans, but funding the dictatorship through travel and remittances to “independent Cuban entrepreneurs” who will be chosen by Havana will not free Cuba’s political prisoners or improve human rights on the island. This is a proposal that sounds progressive to naïve ears, but it will only further enhance the regime’s authority.

The Center is concerned that the timing of these measures gives a green light to the Castro regime to continue ratcheting up its repression against the Cuban people, will provide the military and secret police more resources to carry it out, and negatively impact U.S national security. This is not the time for us to embrace a regime that has opposed US diplomatic efforts in other venues, including most recently Ukraine.  Consistency is important.