Will Joe Biden restore ties with Cuba?

Raúl Castro and Barack Obama at their historic meeting in Panama in April. /(Photo: AP)

On the campaign trail, President-elect Joe Biden promised to reverse Donald Trump’s restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba. But he stopped short of saying just how far he’ll go in restoring ties with the communist island.

To rewrite Cuba policy, Biden will have to navigate the perilous waters of Florida politics, where a large exile population has turned increasingly Republican. The landscape in Cuba has also changed since former President Barack Obama and Raúl Castro agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations in December 2014.

“It’s not the same Cuba as it was four years ago,” said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas and a former U.S. State Department official. “I think there’s going to be a sober reassessment about … did meaningful change happen?”

Nora Gámez Torres, Jacqueline CharlesTue, December 29, 2020, 6:00 AM CST

On the campaign trail, President-elect Joe Biden promised to reverse Donald Trump’s restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba. But he stopped short of saying just how far he’ll go in restoring ties with the communist island.

To rewrite Cuba policy, Biden will have to navigate the perilous waters of Florida politics, where a large exile population has turned increasingly Republican. The landscape in Cuba has also changed since former President Barack Obama and Raúl Castro agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations in December 2014.

“It’s not the same Cuba as it was four years ago,” said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas and a former U.S. State Department official. “I think there’s going to be a sober reassessment about … did meaningful change happen?”- ADVERTISEMENT -https://s.yimg.com/rq/darla/4-6-1/html/r-sf-flx.html

Obama’s policies promoted the exchange of people, ideas, and goods between the U.S. and the island 90 miles away. It also bet on expanding the private sector to form a nascent middle class that would eventually advocate for more freedoms on the island. Obama said it didn’t cost the U.S. much to try a new approach because the island was a “tiny little country” posing no significant security risks to U.S. interests.

But the test lasted just over two years before Trump started reversing what he called a “terrible and misguided” deal and punishing the Cuban government with a flurry of sanctions for supporting Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro.

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 16: U.S. President Donald Trump signs policy changes he is making toward Cuba at the Manuel Artime Theater in the Little Havana neighborhood on June 16, 2017 in Miami, Florida. The President will re-institute some of the restrictions on travel to Cuba and U.S. business dealings with entities tied to the Cuban military and intelligence services. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL – JUNE 16: U.S. President Donald Trump signs policy changes he is making toward Cuba at the Manuel Artime Theater in the Little Havana neighborhood on June 16, 2017 in Miami, Florida. The President will re-institute some of the restrictions on travel to Cuba and U.S. business dealings with entities tied to the Cuban military and intelligence services. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The issue divides Congress as much as the Cuban-American community. The Biden transition team declined to answer questions sent by the Miami Herald about the incoming administration’s policies regarding Cuba. Interviews with experts, policy advocates and former U.S. officials hint at what is likely to be a contentious path forward.

“We can’t keep, in my estimation, the same policy that we had for the last 50-plus years,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks, a Democrat who will become the chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee. “That has not changed things.”

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