Biden does the right thing by stepping away from Obama’s Cuban politics

In radical departure from former President Obama’s Cuban policies, the Biden administration released a report on human trafficking around the world that strongly condemns Cuba’s medical missions abroad.

The “2021 Trafficking in Persons Report”, released on July 1, indicates that there are “strong indications of forced labor” in medical missions in Cuba. Last year, the Cuban regime “capitalized on the pandemic” by increasing these missions, which now place between 34,000 and 50,000 Cuban doctors in more than 60 countries, he said.

“The Cuban government has benefited from operating medical missions abroad,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a launching ceremony for the report. “They send doctors and other medical personnel abroad, do not inform them of the terms of their contracts, confiscate their documents and salaries, threaten them and their family members when they try to leave. .

According to the report, as part of an annual U.S. review of human trafficking in 188 countries, including the United States, the Cuban regime collects between $ 6 billion and $ 8 billion a year through its exports of Cuban doctors.

Doctors “receive only a portion of their salary, ranging from 5 to 25 percent,” with most of their salary retained by the government, the report said.

The renewed US emphasis on exploiting Cuban doctors departs from the Obama administration’s positive view of Cuban medical missions.

In October 2014, at the height of the Obama administration’s re-engagement with the island, Secretary of State John Kerry – now in Biden’s cabinet as the President’s special climate envoy – greeted the work of medical missions in the fight against Ebola. pandemic in Africa, calling them “impressive” and “frontline contribution”.

In 2015, after the normalization of US-Cuban relations, the Obama administration removed Cuba from its list of countries that do not fight human trafficking. Cuban medical missions abroad were first included in this list in 2010.

But after joining Team Biden, Kerry himself became more critical of Cuba. In September 2020, as the spokesperson for the Biden campaign, Kerry told me there had been a ‘disappointment’ in Washington on Cuba’s failure to open up its system following the normalization of US-Cuban relations.

Judging by my conversations with U.S. officials over the past few weeks, the Biden administration is in no rush to launch a new effort to improve relations with Cuba.

Biden had promised to restore family travel and remittances to the island, and Juan Gonzalez, the White House’s senior advisor on Latin American affairs, said the Trump administration’s Cuban policy was “in revision course “.

But several factors held back the Biden administration’s initial rush to reverse Trump’s harsher line against the island regime.

First, the latest arrests of artists by the Cuban dictatorship and new suspicions about Cuba’s possible involvement in sonic attacks on US diplomats in Havana make it difficult for US advocates of engagement with Cuba.

In recent months, the Cuban regime has arrested several independent artists and journalists, according to a June 30 report by Human Rights Watch. “In Cuba, singing a song the government doesn’t like is enough to throw you in jail,” the group says.

Second, US Senator Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has a strong influence on the policy of the Biden administration in Latin America and is a strong critic of the Cuban regime. Menendez called, among other things, for a US investigation into the “unacceptable role” of the Pan American Health Organization in facilitating Cuban medical missions abroad.

Third, the Biden administration, which holds a slim majority in the House and risks losing Congress in the 2022 midterm election, may have learned from its 2020 campaign mistake of underestimating the strong feelings of the Cuban-American voters against the six-decade dictatorship.

In part, because of this mistake, Democrats lost Florida and two key Miami seats in the House. The Republicans’ campaign in South Florida was all about repeating Trump’s ridiculous claim that Biden is a “socialist.”

Biden is doing the right thing for Cuba. There is no rush to improve ties with a dictatorship that bans independent parties, bans non-state media, and arrests performers for singing critical songs.

Don’t miss the “Oppenheimer Presenta” TV show on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on CNN en Español. Twitter: @oppenheimera


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