Biden Administration Deserves Praise for Easing Restrictions Against Cuba (OPINION)

May 20, 2022
11:54 AM

A classic American car passes in front of the United States embassy in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, March 3, 2022. (AP Photo / Ramon Espinosa)

MIAMI — Nearly a year after the Biden administration slapped additional sanctions against Cuban officials following large anti-government protests in the island, the Biden administration announced new measures meant to “increase support for the Cuban people.”

Cuban families will now have an easier time visiting relatives on the island by restoring flights to cities other than Havana. This is great news for U.S.-based Cubans who have family in provinces and face steep transportation costs to see their loved ones.

The Biden administration also plans to reinstate the Cuba Family Reunification Parole Program, which allows certain Cubans who are U.S. citizens to apply for parole for their family members in Cuba. If granted parole, these family members may come to the United States without waiting for their immigrant visas to become available. The reinstatement of this program is something that has seen bipartisan support, as shown in a recent bill introduced by Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL) and Stephanie Murphy (D-FL).

In a press release detailing his proposal, Díaz-Balart said, “Since the lapse of the Cuban Family Reunification Parole (CFRP) Program in 2017, thousands of innocent Cuban families have suffered the burden caused by the Cuban regime’s malfeasance and failure to protect American personnel in Cuba. For nearly four years, I have been working diligently to find a feasible solution that allows Cuban families to be reunited while also upholding the safety of our brave public servants stationed abroad.”

Yet Díaz-Balart is now attacking the Biden administration for doing exactly what he has been advocating for through his bipartisan legislation. It’s cynical, dishonest, and opportunistic.

The administration is also lifting a $1,000 cap on family remittances and increasing support for Cuban entrepreneurs and visa processing on the island.

These measures fall short of the Obama-era relaxation of policies in terms of U.S.-Cuba relations, but if you were to base your opinion on listening to right-wing hardliners in South Florida, the Biden administration has now done a full embrace of the Cuban government.

That’s just not true. The individual “people-to-people” travel category is not being reinstated, for example. Entities will not be removed from the restricted Cuban government-aligned companies that U.S. companies are prohibited from doing business with. The Cuban embargo is not coming to an end anytime soon.

I’m happy that the Biden administration is taking these steps to normalize relations with the island. The truth is that 70 years of harsh economic sanctions and hardline policies against the island have not resulted in a new government. The Obama-era policies that allowed for more access to the internet and goods to flow to the island sowed the seeds for the anti-government protests that took place last year, allowing a greater flow of information and a taste for a better quality of life to spark a hunger for change within Cubans.

Sanctions don’t work for numerous reasons that can fill an essay (and have) on its own. They impoverish and hurt innocent civilians while reducing a population’s capacity to mount an effective political opposition movement against an authoritarian government. They are blunt instruments of force that produce unintended consequences, such as mass migration due to the resulting poverty and hardship. They can also hurt American businesses and workers, as they are disruptive to supply chains and the flow of goods in an increasingly globalized economy.

In the 20th century, sanctions were partially or wholly successful just one-third of the time, with their efficacy decreasing as their use expanded in recent decades.

Unfortunately for the South Florida community, there is a whole industry entirely dedicated to instigating outrage at any deviation from a hardline policy against Cuba. They are completely committed to the same failed policies of the last 70 years because they have built a whole industry around it, with radio and TV hosts stoking anger against any thinker who dares to oppose their views and politicians who exploit the trauma of the Cuban diaspora to score cheap points by distracting from their failures in domestic policy.

One only has to consider that Florida is home to eight of the top 10 housing markets with the fastest-rising rents to realize that these lawmakers have not only failed to dislodge the Cuban regime in the island but also to create a good standard of living in South Florida.

I’m sure I’ll be called a communist for writing this piece and attacked by the same peddlers of outrage that dominate the discourse around this issue, but I don’t care. It needs to be said: I’m glad the Biden administration took these forward-thinking steps. I’m glad that Cuban families will have an easier time being reunited. And I’m glad that U.S.-based Cubans will be able to support their loved ones on the island.


Thomas Kennedy is an elected Democratic National Committee member from Florida. Twitter: @tomaskenn