The administration of President Joe Biden, both formally and via anonymous reports, announced twin policies to ease the financial misfortunes of the communist government of Cuba and its proxy socialist government in Venezuela, leaving leaders in both communities dismayed and confused.
The State Department announced a series of measures on Tuesday that would create a cash windfall for the Castro regime: the return of an exemption to the barely existent embargo known as “group people-to-people” travel – effectively legalizing tourism in groups to the island if disguised as “educational” – and the lifting of caps on sending remittances to the island set in place under former President Donald Trump. Tourism and remittances are key sources of revenue for the communist regime, whose military maintains a stranglehold on everything from money wiring enterprises to luxury hotels.
Later that day, multiple reports quoting anonymous Biden administration sources revealed that the White House would soon allow the oil corporation Chevron to resume business talks with Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the Venezuelan regime-run oil company, and that it would lift sanctions on one person: socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro’s nephew, a former PDVSA official.
Both announcements preceded widely derided talks with both regimes. In March, Biden sent a delegation to Caracas to discuss, reports claimed, potentially resuming the purchase of Venezuelan oil to offset sanctions on Russia. Since Venezuela’s regime is heavily indebted to Russia, any payment for Venezuelan oil would likely go directly to Moscow, anyway. A month later, Biden’s team held a meeting with the Castro regime, reportedly to discuss refugees fleeing the island in droves after the violent repression of suspected political dissidents — including the shooting of suspected supporters of democracy at point-blank range in their own homes — and heading to the southern border. After President Barack Obama ended the “wet foot/dry foot” policy that allowed Cubans who made the 90-mile sea voyage to Florida to stay in the country legally, Cubans began using visa-free travel to countries like Guyana and Nicaragua to take the routes human traffickers control out of South America to Texas.
Activists, community leaders, and analysts from both countries told Breitbart News this week they expected no benefits to either Cubans or Venezuelans from the new pro-regime policies.
“The Biden policies are based on false premises,” Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat, co-founder and spokesman for the Cuban Democratic Directorate (Directorio), told Brietbart News on Tuesday. “(1) That with these measures they will regularize Cuban immigration to the US. They won’t. Cubans will continue fleeing a repressive tyranny they despise. And the Biden Administration has shown the Communist dictatorship in Cuba that it can once again blackmail the US by weaponizing immigration.”
The second premise, he continued, is “that these measures will help create an independent economic space in Cuba. They won’t. In a tightly controlled economy like Cuba, these measures will only aid the Cuban military dictatorship in settling up parasitic crony capitalism that will enrich their webs of patronage in Cuban society and not help the average Cubans.”
The third false premise, he added, was “that these measures will foster political freedoms. They won’t.”
“As the Regime’s statements following the policy announcements show, the dictatorship will not cede an inch,” he continued. “The Biden Policy statements came only hours after the Regime instituted an even more Draconian legal code which strictly formalizes punishment of dissent and international support for that dissent.”
The Communist Party had announced the creation of 37 new “crimes” on Monday, before the Biden administration’s announcement, including “insulting” regime officials, now punishable by three years in prison. Prior to the creation of the new penal code, the Castro regime still criminalized political dissent, but used a vague law known as desacato (“contempt”) against anyone suspected of not supporting the regime, or fabricated evidence that the victims of persecution were guilty of actual crimes like assault or robbery.
Daniel Llorente Miranda, a Cuban dissident who made international headlines in 2017 by interrupting Havana’s communist May Day parade and waving an American flag – prompting a gang beating by regime operatives – told Breitbart News that the new policies made him feel that “Biden does not respect the opinion and the position of the Cuban opposition.” Llorente, now based in Florida after a harrowing journey that began with his forced expatriation from Cuba at gunpoint, also lamented, however, that the Cuban opposition as a whole needed to improve “how to organize” in a way that would result in better policies, without elaborating.
Cuban activists similarly used social media to condemn the concessions to the regime.
“Yesterday, the Cuban regime approved one of the most severe penal codes against dissidents and civil society,” Cuban LGBT activist Magdiel Jorge Castro wrote on Twitter. “Today the U.S. government announces a package of measures to change its policy towards Cuba. Someone advise Joe Biden, he’s doing this very badly!”
Biden has faced pushback even from high-raking Democrats in the Cuban community. U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lamented on Tuesday that the policy change “risks sending the wrong message to the wrong people, at the wrong time and for all the wrong reasons.”
“I am dismayed to learn the Biden administration will begin authorizing group travel to Cuba through visits akin to tourism,” Menendez lamented. “To be clear, those who still believe that increasing travel will breed democracy in Cuba are simply in a state of denial.”
Rubén Chirino Leañez, the CEO of the Venezuelan polling firm Meganálisis, told Breitbart News on Wednesday that the Biden policies for his country would likely meet with similar disgust as that of the Cubans. While a “mere political action” that Chirino said would likely result in no meaningful changes for the daily life of Venezuelans, Chirino highlighted that the Biden administration insisted, through anonymous senior officials, that Venezuela’s establishment opposition approve of the sanctions relief. The latest Meganálisis poll on the opposition, released in March, found that about 80 percent of respondents in the country believed the opposition was made up of “sellouts” or earnest socialists who supported the Maduro regime.
“The perception is strengthened of the opposition, like in the March Meganálisis poll, as an accomplice opposition, a sellout political opposition,” Chirino explained, “so much so that the very Biden administration almost, in a Pontius Pilate-style turn of phrase, washes its hands saying that everything it is doing is being done in coordination with the interim government of [President Juan Guaidó], which it continues to recognize, and of Guaidó as the leader of the opposition.”
By the rules of the Venezuelan constitution, Guaidó is the president of Venezuela. Dictator Nicolás Maduro maintains full control of the military, law enforcement, the courts, and every other practical government entity, rendering Guaidó de facto powerless. Guaidó has expressed support for dialogue, again, between Maduro and the opposition – the dialogue the Biden administration claimed the sanctions relief was meant to encourage.
“For the Biden government to confirm that it is acting in coordination with the Guaidó government is confirming that Guaidó and his interim government, that highly rejected group, validates the lifting of these two sanctions,” Chirino concluded. “As we know already, that group is seen as [by] over 80 percent of Venezuelans as a sector with no moral quality that sold out to the interests of socialism, that sold itself … it is a false opposition for the majority of Venezuelans.”
The sanctions relief also gives the Venezuelan public the impression, Chirino observed, that the Biden administration is “a weak government [with] an absolute lack of strength.”
“Biden is a man who, from the moment that he assumed power, in no moment did he inspire hope in Venezuelans as a possible leader of the most powerful nation on earth,” Chirino said. “On the contrary, today he reasserts himself as a timid president, erratic, weak.”
Chirino also lamented that the policies will not improve the dire humanitarian state of most Venezuelans under socialism.
“That Chevron will do business with PDVSA will have no impact on the daily life of the Venezuelan that has difficulties, has to wake up every morning with the pressure of knowing they will not have a way of bringing a plate of food home,” Chirino observed to Breitbart News.
Disgust with Biden policies among Cubans and Venezuelans will likely do little to improve the dire circumstances Democrats are facing with regards to the Hispanic vote in the United States. A poll published in December found that 40 percent of Hispanic Americans had concerns regarding “Democrats embracing socialism,” and the concern was not limited to heavily Cuban and Venezuelan communities in Florida. Biden personally hit a record low approval rating with Hispanics in April, down to just 26 percent. For comparison, 31 percent of non-Hispanic white Americans approved of Biden in the same poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University.