Biden's Trump-like stand on Cuba will only make things worse

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A colourful street in Cuba. Image: Doug88888/Flickr

When it comes to Cuba, Joe Biden and other top Democrats have turned into Donald Trump.

After saying in his campaign he would normalize relations with Cuba, Biden instead stayed the course with Trump's sanctions. He also upped his rhetoric, repeating a number of Trump's spurious charges against the communist country -- such as continuing to say Cuba supports or condones terrorism.

The result of U.S. sanctions on Cuba have been disastrous for ordinary Cubans. Fuel shortages due to sanctions have meant frequent power blackouts and food shortages. Medical supplies are scarce, and people are dying of treatable and preventable causes as a result. Even though Cuba has successfully developed COVID-19 vaccines, the sanctions hamper its distribution capacity.

As a result, COVID is spreading wildly there, which is especially sad because Cuba had been doing a very good job of controlling the virus and, in fact, sent medical support teams to many other countries last year to help them battle the pandemic.

Now, as a result of horrific conditions there and very likely American provocation (the U.S. spends tens of millions annually on anti-government media and on-the-ground and social media campaigning), Cubans are demonstrating en masse against the government.

Instead of normalizing relations, Biden has deepened the strife between the two nations by following Trump in his sanctions. As a result, Cubans are experiencing real misery. Instead of helping by easing sanctions, or sending food or medical aid, Biden and top Democrats like Nancy Pelosi are clearly using the crisis they contributed to as an excuse and a means to topple the Cuban government. They are blaming the Cuban government for the country's state of affairs, claiming it is caused by Cuban leaders who are enriching themselves at the expense of the public.

There are many things not to like about Cuba's government. It isn't democratic and there is widespread corruption, but other countries with un-democratic or corrupt governments are not bullied and starved by the U.S.

America, where voter suppression is widespread and growing, and where Black people and other racial minorities face constant discrimination and threat of police violence and incarceration, is rather a glass house. The nation has a long way to go before it is in a position to criticize and punish on the basis of those criticisms.

I admit to loving Cuba and its people, and I've travelled there several times and made some friends, so the situation is very personal. I personally know people who can't feed their families regularly, who stand in lines in the hot sun for hours every day to meet basic needs, who can't rely on their excellent health care system anymore and who now fear absolute chaos.

Instead of normalizing relations with Cuba and making space for reform there, Biden's position only strengthens the hand of hard-liners there, making reform less likely.

As he pushes the country toward asphyxiation, what is Biden's endgame? It appears he wants the government to fall. After that comes chaos. An orderly transition to some form of democratic government is impossible to imagine. Chaos is more likely, with widespread poverty, inequality and insecurity.

Cubans are very aware of how poor they are compared to the wealth in prosperous countries many of their family members have fled to. Indeed, Cubans are again risking their lives and dying as they try to get out of the country on rafts. Toppling the government, however, is unlikely to turn Cuba into Florida.

Biden's actions, sadly, are more likely to create another Haiti -- unstable, unsafe, and, for most people, a miserable place to exist.

Ish Theilheimer is a writer and theatre producer and former Publisher of StraightGoods News. He lives in Golden Lake, Ontario.

Image: Doug88888/Flickr

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