1. One simple objective should guide U.S. policy on Cuba: how can we improve the lives of the Cuban people.
2. For decades, Cubans have suffered under both a repressive Communist government and a punishing U.S. Embargo. A U.S. Cold War-era policy has failed for over sixty years to achieve its stated objective of bringing democracy to Cuba while harming Cubans.
3. For the last two years of the Obama Administration, we pursued engagement w/ the Cuban people via normalization of relations. Cuba’s nascent private sector was growing, more Americans were traveling to the island, Cubans had more resources, connections, and hope for the future
4. As part of normalization, the Cuban government released dozens of political prisoners and agreed to expand access to the Internet (which allowed young people to connect more with one another in ways that have made a real difference).
5. Trump’s relentless effort to rollback the Obama policy crushed the Cuban private sector, limited Americans capacity to travel somewhere they’d like to go, and did nothing to make gains on human rights beyond performative rhetoric from a man who does not believe in democracy.
6. Cubans have been bravely expressing their frustrations and exercising their universal rights in ways that are truly inspiring. We should be thinking above all about what we can do to help them.
7. For starters, there is a humanitarian crisis. The U.S. should offer assistance on COVID vaccines (if the Cuban govt refuses, that’s on them). We should do the same on other basic shortages related to food and medicine.
8. The U.S. should allow remittances (especially from Cuban Americans) that put resources directly into the hands of Cubans. The U.S. (obviously more post-COVID) should once again support travel and engagement that directly benefits Cubans and supports a nascent private sector.
9. The U.S. should restore our Embassy personnel in Havana. At a time of such tumult on the island, it would be good to have more diplomats there to better understand the circumstances and players involved. Clearly, “Havana Syndrome” is not a Cuba-specific phenomenon.
10.The U.S. should be vocal and consistent in advocating for human rights and supporting others who do. In the Cuban context, we should underscore these are universal values – the Cuban government wants to frame this as a bilateral clash (US calls for invasions are a gift).
11. The politics are tough. It is the case Obama won Florida twice on a platform of engagement and break from the hardline. He drew a contrast with hardliners while always rooting his policy in support for freedom and a better life for Cubans.
12. Read what Obama said in Havana. You can be for something other than an endless Embargo and make a forceful case for democracy. And you can do it in Cuba.
Remarks by President Obama to the People of Cuba
Gran Teatro de la Habana Havana, Cuba 10:10 A.M. CST
13. President Biden and his team know all this well. I hope more than anything they take steps that can make things better for the Cuban people, who are extraordinary and deserve so much better.