In nearly six months as president, the American Joe Biden did not substantially change the policy of USA in order to Cuba, nor should make changes anytime soon. The assessment is by American University expert and professor William LeoGrande, one of the co-authors of the book Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana. LeoGrande says that with greater access to the internet, social networks have become an instrument of mobilization in the real world.
What explains the protests?
The main reason is economic despair. There is a shortage of food, medicine, electricity and fuel. The Cuban government is basically broken, it has no more sources of foreign currency. The pandemic has wiped out the tourism industry, the Trump government has cut Cuban-American shipments, Venezuelan oil shipments have dropped 50% because of problems in Venezuela. All of Cuba’s main sources of foreign currency are now blocked. And so the government is unable to import food, medicine and fuel.
Add to that, of course, the pandemic itself. Cuba had done a good job of containing the virus. They closed the island completely last year, had very strict mandatory quarantine measures for people who tested positive. And as they have a preventive health system, they were able to track contacts. Things were relatively well, under control, and started to open up again. Now the Delta variant has been detected and there is community spread, without the health system having the resources to deal with it.
What is the role of greater internet access in this process?
For a long time, Cubans had little access to the internet, for economic and political reasons. But in recent years, availability has expanded very quickly. In Cuba, where independent voluntary associations are not legal, social networks have taken that place and become an instrument of mobilization for action in the real world.
As mr. Do you see President Biden’s Cuba policy?
So far, Joe Biden’s government has done absolutely nothing. They left all of Trump’s sanctions in place. The State Department said it applauds the Cubans for trying to help each other. Still, the United States maintains a remittance ban that prevents Cuban Americans from helping their families on the island. It just doesn’t make sense. About the demonstrations, the Biden government said what was expected: that it supports the Cuban people and asks the government not to use force against peaceful demonstrators. It is perfectly understandable, but there is no acknowledgment by the government that its policies contributed to the ongoing crisis.