Biden Adds Two New Sanctions On Cuba

By Sam King

US president Joe Biden has just announced two additional sanctions against Cuba while still refusing to roll back a single one of the 243 additional economic sanctions enacted by Trump.

The new sanctions target the Cuban Minister of Defence and the Brigada Especial Nacional for their roles in dealing with the “peaceful” protests that took place in Cuba (and the US) on July 11. In reality July 11 saw a co-ordinated wave of protests (biggest in Miami) that, in Cuba, included violent attacks on supporters of the revolution, violent attacks on police, turning over cars and destroying buildings.

The provocations were aimed at provoking a violent response from the Cuban state that could be used to justify increase US attacks. They failed in this objective as the US mass media and anti-Communist twitter activists failed to produce any footage showing any police over-reaction or repression. Nor have they been able to produce any image or footage which shows large protests inside Cuba – relying instead on close up photos of small numbers of protesters that are published alongside unsubstantiated claims that protests are large.

Biden’s new sanctions and Trump’s 243 sanctions strengthen the United States’ sixty-year old policy of strangling the Cuban revolution through economic blockade. This is a policy of comprehensive and extra-territorial economic sanctions that includes prohibiting banks, insurance companies, shipping companies, manufacturers, traders or any other type of businesses in every country in the world from dealing with Cuba.

People participate in a rally against the U.S. embargo against Cuba, in Santa Clara, Cuba, April 25, 2021. / Credit: Xinhua/Joaquin Hernadez/Getty

While US politicians falsely accuse Cuba of silencing critical voices, Cuban solidarity activist Walter Lipman has highlighted that for the foreign-language pages of Cuba’s state media – Granma have been completely blocked (including in Australia) for four days and running. This is assumed to be an operation by the United States to prevent Cuba telling its side of the story.

“This is just the beginning” – Biden

The new Biden era measures, which extend the use of the 2012 Maginsky Act, may not have a concrete effect above and beyond the economic blockade already in place. However, as the first Biden White House policy on the Cuba sanctions it reverses Obama’s policy of partially easing – though far from ending – the six-decade long blockade.

The Biden White house statement foreshadows further announcements to come on the key issues of family remittances from the US to Cuba; intervening into Cuban internet provision; and increasing US Embassy staff in Havana. The latter is touted as:

“enhance[ing] our diplomatic, civil society, and Consular service engagement all of which are part of our demonstrated effort to support the Cuban people and their desire for freedom.”

The US is on record in recent years as funding Cuban counter-revolutionary “civil society” organisations – as well as long history of counter-revolutionary sabotage.

Politically the new measures are a capitulation by Biden to the increasingly aggressive domestic stance by the far right and Republican Party which are attempting to divide the Democrats over Cuba and hegemonise the right-wing Latino vote especially in Miami. Despite promising during the presidential election campaign to reverse Trump’s 243 additional sanctions, so far Biden has kept all of them – and now added another two.

Republicans, including presidential hopefuls as well as Fox News are adding the anti-Cuba cause as central political tool alongside their push back against domestic social movements. It is being used alongside attacks on voting rights, new bans on teaching “critical race theory” and propaganda against the black lives matter mass movement and leadership.

Supposed Communist “repression” in Cuba and the need for the US federal government to respond more aggressively to “save” the Cuban people is becoming a key issue in attempts to unifying the Republican Party around anti-Communism and US imperialism. It is also being used to divide the Democrats who, while generally in agreement with anti-Communism and imperialist aggression against Cuba, are also dependent on votes from people who are not always so convinced. Marco Rubio and others are pushing hard on this theme and, as Biden back pedals there is zero push-back from the left wing of the Democrats in Congress. For example, Senator Bernie Sanders deflected Journalists questions on Cuba during a press conference on July 12, stating his focus is on his work as chairman of the Budget Committee.

Defence of the Cuban revolution again attacks by US imperialism will have to come from solidarity and  social movements on  ground. On July 23 a full page advertisement was placed  in the New York Times containing an open letter entitled Let Cuba live. The Five Hundred plus initial signatories include Black Lives Matter Global Network; ANSWER Coalition; The People’s Forum; CODEPINK; Landless Workers Movement-MST (Brasil); IFCO/Pastors for Peace; Chico Buarque (Brasil); Jeremy Corbyn (UK); Danny Glover; Boots Riley; Silvio Rodriguez Dominguez; Jill Stein; Democratic Socialists of America and many more. Please add your name to the petition here.

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