What to do about Cuba could quickly become an uncomfortable political question for President-elect Joe Biden. He'll soon arrive at a fork on the road. Should he veer right or left?
As Biden crafts his foreign policy, one of his administration's most prickly dilemmas is wrapped in this simple question:
Should the United States return to its 2014 efforts — when Barack Obama was president and Biden his VP — to re-establish relations and diplomatic ties with the Cuban government, wiping away the 60-year U.S. embargo against the communist island? And if he has any intention of doing so, he'll have to wrangle concessions from the regime before any resumption of relations. The Obama administration's failure to do so doomed the historic rapprochement.
Of course, this is not foreign politics in South Florida; it's local politics.
Biden will have to navigate the perilous waters of Florida politics and convictions. Here, an exile population in South Florida, made up largely of Cubans and Venezuelans, spurned him at the ballot box and voted for President Donald Trump.
He learned the hard way how these particular exiles, a powerful voting bloc, favored Trump's hard line on the Castro and Nicolas Maduro regimes during the presidential elections. Yes, Biden won Miami-Dade County, but there was a pall over the victory.
Now Biden may have backed himself into a corner. On the campaign trail, he promised to reverse Trump's restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba. The numerous daily flights from Miami to the island, launched by the Obama administration, are now down to a few. There have been human costs on both side of the Straits.
But if Biden wants to go back to the touchy-freely days of 2014, he'll now be dealing with a different Cuba, one that, in recent months, has cracked down hard on a group of artists, nicknamed the San Isidro Movement. Old, repressive Cuba is the same as ever, as it was even under pre-Trump renewed relations.
Today, Biden would be making a serious mistake to resume more-cordial relations with Cuba. His support would all but destroy the work of those San Isidro artists, the Ladies in White and so many others fighting from within to change the regime.
Cuba would use that support from the United States to quash the demands of the opposition — that's the Cuban government for you. This is why our new president should not reward the regime in advance of real reform.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE MIAMI HERALD