Biden Is Right: We Shouldn’t Restrict Americans in the Name of Liberating Cuba

“The move reinstates the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program, which from 2007 to 2016 allowed up to 20,000 Cubans per year to come and stay in the U.S. while applying for permanent legal resident status. It also removes the $1,000-per-quarter restriction on how much money Americans can send to family, friends, and private entities across the Florida Straits.”

“Lifting government prohibitions on the movement and trade of Americans is a good policy in and of itself, regardless of impact on captive peoples abroad. But is the impact of increased travel and remittances on balance good or bad for Cubans?

Menendez argues that “nothing changed” as a result of Barack Obama’s decision to ease restrictions. By the unreasonable standard of regime change or even significant liberalization, the senator is correct. But by the standard of measurable differences in living conditions and relationship with the government, things indeed changed. As I wrote after visiting the island in 2016 for the first time in 18 years:

“A noticeable segment of the population has gained at least some financial and experiential independence from the police state. They are not, in my observation, spending that extra money on flower arrangements for the Revolution. As Sen. Jeff Flake (R–Arizona) told us during our visit, “You have about 25 percent of Cubans who work fully in the private sector….The big change is the number of Cubans being able to not have to rely on government and therefore can hold their government more accountable.”””

“Menendez’s statement nods toward the potential universality of his foreign policy vision: “Today is another reminder that we must ground our policy in that reality, reaffirm our nation’s indiscriminate commitment to fight for democracy from Kyiv to Havana, and make clear we will measure our success in freedom and human rights and not money and commerce.”
That logic, applied evenly, suggests at minimum the dismantling of the World Trade Organization and the imposition of travel restrictions on Americans seeking to visit not just Havana but the more than 60 countries categorized by Freedom House as “not free.” Menendez would never openly advocate such an approach, because that approach would be both politically suicidal and logically insane.

Cuba has long been the crystallization of America’s worst foreign policy instincts. Good on the Biden administration for easing that somewhat.”

Buy Cuban Minerals To Mess With Russia

“Russia controls 4 percent of global cobalt production, for example, and 11 percent of nickel production. Following the sanctions package dropped on Russia, cobalt’s price increased from $74,000 per ton to $82,000 per ton and has now more than doubled since the start of 2021. Nickel’s price, meanwhile, has zoomed since the beginning of March, rising from $25,000 per ton on March 1 to a high above $45,000 briefly before settling at $32,000. Since 2019, the price of nickel has nearly tripled.

Shortages and price rises in those commodities will stymie any transition from carbon-emitting combustion engines to electric cars, since the average electric car battery contains 80 pounds of nickel and 15 to 30 pounds of cobalt. Increased gas prices due to a Russian oil collapse would not necessarily increase the adoption of green energy programs because electric cars, solar panels, and wind turbines all use nickel and cobalt to varying degrees. The rising costs of nickel and other inputs will very likely cause electric vehicle batteries, which were growing rapidly less expensive over the last decade, to stop getting more affordable until at least 2024.

Reduced access to Russian commodities will drive up the cost of renewables and electric vehicles as gas prices also increase. It’s easier to increase oil production than it is to increase nickel or cobalt production; America has at least 35 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and OPEC can increase oil production whenever it wants. Pumping more oil is a faster and less arduous process than building a new nickel mine.

But the U.S. has another available source of nickel and cobalt that could be counted on when countries on the other side of the world have production difficulties due to war or internal strife, and it’s a scant 90 nautical miles off the coast of Florida.

Unfortunately, this source happens to be Cuba, and American companies have been forbidden by law to do business with Cuba for most of the last 60 years.”

U.S. investigators increasingly confident directed-energy attacks behind Havana Syndrome

“The U.S. government’s investigation into the mysterious illnesses impacting American personnel overseas and at home is turning up new evidence that the symptoms are the result of directed-energy attacks, according to five lawmakers and officials briefed on the matter.

Behind closed doors, lawmakers are also growing increasingly confident that Russia or another hostile foreign government is behind the suspected attacks, based on regular briefings from administration officials — although there is still no smoking gun linking the incidents to Moscow.”

Cubans Rose Up. America Should Step Up.

“Biden’s words of support for the protesters—some of whom waved American flags as they demanded “libertad”—are nice. Actions would be better. And there is plenty the U.S. could, and should, do to aid Cubans in their fight against authoritarian communism.

For starters, Congress could lift the 59-year-old U.S. trade embargo against the island country.

Some leftists blame the embargo for impoverishing Cuba, but this is misdirection. Communism has destroyed Cuba’s once-prosperous economy. Still, the trade embargo, in place since 1962, has plainly failed to accomplish its primary goal of toppling the Cuban regime. If anything, it has helped to strengthen it by giving former President Fidel Castro and his successors a way to deflect blame for communism’s failures—a strategy that Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel also deployed during the initial wave of protests in July.

From America’s perspective, what has the embargo accomplished? That it remains in place nearly three decades after the fall of the Soviet Union suggests that America has failed to learn the primary lesson of the Cold War: Economic development is the best weapon to aim at communism.”

“where is the evidence that disengagement is working? Demanding political reforms before economic changes is exactly backward—and again ignores the lessons of the Cold War.
Economic freedom is the key to other kinds of freedom. Consider what happened when the Obama administration loosened some of the rules on American travel to Cuba as part of an effort to reestablish diplomatic relations. Even with the trade embargo still in place, that slight policy change induced then–Cuban President Raul Castro to relax state controls on private commerce. While accurate figures on Cuba’s economy are understandably difficult to come by, a 2017 Brookings Institution report estimated that “the number of authorized self-employed people (cuentapropistas) rose from some 150,000 in 2008 to about 580,000 in 2017.”

Increasing entrepreneurship reduces Cubans’ reliance on the Communist state. And when people are allowed a little freedom, they tend to want more of it. ”

“calls for the White House to allow private companies to beam internet service into Cuba to circumvent the government’s blackout and help protesters organize. Technologically, this is possible: Balloons anchored miles offshore could broadcast mobile internet signals into Cuba. The same tech was deployed near Puerto Rico after two devastating hurricanes crippled the island’s digital infrastructure in 2017.

Even if Biden does nothing more than re-instate Obama’s travel and economic policies and call on Congress to end the failed trade embargo, it would signal to the Cuban people—and to the country’s potential future leaders—that the United States recognizes trade and tourism as vital economic and political lifelines for the island’s long-suffering residents. It also would remove the biggest excuse that Cuba’s government uses to distract people from the failings of communism.”

Cuba’s Protests Are a Sign of Imperial Overreach

“In 2000, the two countries signed an agreement whereby Venezuela would send Cuba an initial 53,000 barrels of oil per day in exchange for the “gratuitous medical services” of “Cuban specialist doctors and health care technicians.” In 2012, Chávez claimed there were over 44,000 Cuban doctors, nurses, ophthalmologists, and therapists working in seven “medical missions” in Venezuela. Julio César Alfonso, an exiled Cuban doctor, describes such missions, which were replicated at a smaller scale in dozens of other countries, as “a booming business for the Cuban government, and a form of modern slavery.” In fact, the state’s earnings, which accounted for the equivalent of USD $6.4 billion in 2018— nearly twice the amount Cubans received from cash remittances—hinge on allowing the medical personnel to keep, at best, a mere quarter of their wages based on the amount Cuba receives per professional.

The humanitarian facade concealed a silent invasion. In 2018, Luis Almagro, the secretary-general of the Organization of American States, revealed that at least 22,000 Cubans had infiltrated the Venezuelan state, particularly the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service. The infamous Helicoide in Caracas, the headquarters of this ruthless spy agency that Chávez created in 2009, is a well-known torture chamber. According to a 2019 CASLA Institute study, members of Cuba’s Intelligence Directorate, commonly known as G2, had their own base of operations in Caracas and were directly involved in the Venezuelan regime’s systematic use of torture against political opponents. Under expert Cuban guidance, Venezuela even turned its intelligence services “on its own armed forces, instilling fear and paranoia and quashing dissent,” as Reuters reported in 2019.

Cuban operatives also have provided security for both Chávez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro. In 2019, when journalist Jorge Ramos and his Univision colleagues were held by Maduro’s forces after an aborted interview attempt in the Miraflores Palace, team members detected the Cuban accents of several men within the dictator’s innermost security circle.

If the two countries had become “a single nation,” as Chávez himself assured in 2007, it was because Cuba, that bastion of anti-imperialist Latin American dignity, turned the far larger and richer Venezuela into a colony. Rich, that is, until Cuban and Cuba-backed communists took over. In 2001, at the outset of Chávez’s presidency, Venezuela was South America’s richest country; recently, it was declared poorer than Haiti.

As Venezuela spiraled toward its humanitarian collapse, colonial policy dictated that Fidel Castro’s successors at the helm of the Cuban regime—initially his brother Raul, thereafter Communist Party bureaucrat Miguel Díaz-Canel—summon all their mastery in the arts of intimidation to keep Maduro in power. The Cubans were instrumental in suppressing the massive protests against Chavismo in 2017; in implementing the “revolving-door” technique, whereby certain political prisoners are set free while new ones are incarcerated; and in luring the hapless opposition into dead-end negotiations each time the regime was against the wall. Over the years, in fact, I’ve seen enough reports about Maduro’s certain downfall so as to take the recent, euphoric assurances about the Cuban dictatorship’s imminent end with a grain of salt.

Whether or not the current protests in Cuba endanger the tyranny, they do contain several levels of irony. Not least since the regime that exports doctors and nurses as if they were commodities and touts its decrepit health care system as a global example, fooling gullible Western intellectuals such as Michael Moore, is now facing popular unrest due, in large part, to a severe health care crisis. Although the media has claimed that the pandemic brought the Cuban health care system to the brink of breakdown, this is nothing new. In 2015, a PanAm Post reporter visited a Havana hospital undercover, only to find shortages of basic medical supplies, improvised stretchers, filthy bathrooms lacking doors or toilet paper, wards staffed only by medical students, and patients forced to supply their own sheets, pillows, and medicine. In recent weeks, heightened attention and a broader use of social media tools have made this reality evident to anyone willing to pay attention.”

The Case for Beaming Internet Into Cuba

“Originally developed by Google before being partially scrapped for not being economically viable, Project Loon was a pre-Starlink attempt to bring mobile internet to rural areas by attaching antennas to weather balloons that could function as de facto cell phone towers floating more than 10 miles up in the air. The idea has only been tested on a large scale once—in Puerto Rico during the aftermath of the two devastating hurricanes that hit the island in 2017—but showed some promise. A 2018 test showed that a fleet of Loon balloons could maintain a connection over 620 miles, according to the Associated Press.
Again, Cuba is just 90 miles from the United States.

It’s not a slam dunk, of course. Signals could be jammed by the Cuban government, which already tries to block Radio Televisión Martí as much as possible. Many Cubans’ cell phones might not be able to connect due to differences in network protocols. And whatever connectivity is possible will be slow and spotty, at least by American standards.

But it may be worth making the attempt anyway, particularly since the technology already exists and could be deployed for minimal cost. There’s little to lose, and much that could be gained—not just in Cuba, but in other fights against tyrannical regimes.”

Biden is turning back Haitian migrants at sea, echoing a shameful chapter in US history

“The US could soon be facing dual migrant crises stemming from unrest in Haiti and Cuba. In response, the Biden administration has preemptively warned migrants not to try to come to the US by boat.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas recently confirmed that any migrants intercepted by the US Coast Guard off US shores will not be allowed to enter the country — they will be turned back or, if they express fear of returning to their home countries, repatriated to a third country.

“The time is never right to attempt migration by sea,” Mayorkas said in a press conference earlier this month. “To those who risk their lives doing so, this risk is not worth taking. Allow me to be clear: If you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States.”

The policy isn’t new. Past administrations, both Republican and Democratic, have employed this interdiction approach to prevent Caribbean migrants from reaching US shores. But although it was always done under the pretense of protecting migrants from the very real dangers of that journey, it resulted in many Haitians being returned to certain peril in their home country over the years and, under the administrations of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, languishing in what one federal judge called a “prison camp” at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they were held after being intercepted at sea.”

“The vast majority of migrants who passed through Guantanamo were returned to Haiti. A much smaller percentage were able to be paroled into the United States because they passed their asylum interviews.”