Maintaining a balanced relationship is always a great challenge. For example, with a neighbor who is passionate about reggaeton and playing it loud; when we ride our bikes on the road and some truck driver tries to show us that we hardly mean anything. It is even more difficult when those relations are between two countries, which are too close to be able to ignore each other. Not now that everything is global and WhatsApp and Facebook unite us so much that it seems the house’s living room is getting larger ad infinitum, but in that distant time when traveling was an adventure that no one knew the end it could have and filibusterism was the online platform of the time.
Geography, even now, matters. It is still important and sometimes almost decisive. Based on this, it is possible to affirm that the United States of America should be Cuba’s natural market and its natural supplier, as well as the natural destination of its tourists.
What physically separates the two countries is the Strait of Florida, ninety miles of sea, but beware, it is not the Florida sea, nor the Florida ocean, it is just a “strait.” So narrow that it takes just half a day for a ferry to go from one side to the other and a plane takes longer to taxi down a runway at Miami International Airport than it does to get to Havana after it takes off. That’s how narrow it is.
But there are other asymmetries that widen the narrow and complex relationship.
|Annual GDP (2018)||100,023B$||20,611,900B$|
|Per capita GDP (2018)||8,861$||62,868$|
|Prod. Crude oil thousands of barrels per day||50||12,248|
|CO2 emission Ton/Per cap||2,40||16,14|
Other issues, not at all physical, separate the two countries. The first is the permanence of the Monroe Doctrine in the minds of U.S. administrations and, derived from it, a history of tremendous disagreements, difficult to fix, although not impossible.
That Biden-Harris reach the White House (Trump’s tantrum aside) seems undoubtedly much better than the current administration and its more than 132 measures that have not achieved what they wanted either. That the elected presidency has declared that its path follows in Obama’s footsteps on the Cuba issue also seems better. But returning to the path of a relationship of understanding requires not only wanting it, but being able to do it, effectively. The Democratic agenda for the future has an important weight in that respect. John Kavulich, someone with years of experience dealing with the matter, predicted what the new administration could do. Here I summarize it:
- Legislation to alter (expand) the commercial, economic, and political relationship with the Republic of Cuba introduced in either chamber of the United States Congress would likely be defeated with bipartisan participation. This is particularly true given the close divisions of the Democratic Party-Republican Party in each chamber, which can range from 2% to 3%.
- Would the Cuban Restricted List maintained by the United States Department of State be eliminated or modified, and would persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States be allowed the use of hotels, restaurants and other facilities affiliated with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of the Republic of Cuba? Not likely.
- Would the cruise lines be resumed? It is unlikely.
- Would the license for hotel management contracts be renewed? It is unlikely.
- Would regular commercial flights to cities other than Havana be reauthorized? It is probable.
- Would Cuba be required to allow U.S. companies to directly export inputs to any self-employed worker? It’s possible.
- Would direct correspondent banks be authorized, which would allow financial institutions based in the United States and financial institutions based on the island to maintain respective accounts, so that funds could be transferred electronically in a transparent and efficient way for their use with authorized transactions? It’s possible. The Obama administration did it.
- Would the limits on remittances be increased? It is possible, but perhaps they will be required to be managed by another Cuban company, not related to the Revolutionary Armed Forces.
- Would the opportunities to travel to Cuba be expanded for persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States who are not of Cuban descent? It is unlikely at first.
- Would consular personnel be added to the United States Embassy in Havana, specifically for the purpose of processing visas? It is probable.
- Would staff at all levels of the U.S. Embassy in Havana return? It is unlikely.
- Would a United States Ambassador be appointed to the Republic of Cuba? It is unlikely at first. If the Democratic Party controls the United States Senate, then the probability increases.
- Will Title III of the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (known as the Libertad Act) be suspended again? It is unlikely. Among other reasons, because it is better to wait for the final provisions of the 29 lawsuits filed and because, while Title III is active, it is a negotiating tool for the Biden administration.
- Would the use of Title IV of the Act decrease or cease? It is unlikely.
- Would the focus on negotiating a settlement for certified claims of individuals and companies against the Republic of Cuba be revitalized? It is probable. There are 8,821 claims. A total of 5,913, valued at $1,902,202,284.95, were certified by the United States Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (USFCSC) and have not been resolved for 60 years.
Beyond agreeing with Kavulich’s assessment and forecast, it is clear that, in relation to Cuba, at that table where we are used as a pledge of exchange, there will be several issues of relatively high political complexity for Biden-Harris. Their administration will have to “negotiate” them internally first. And wanting, at least in cases like this, is not always being able. Anything that jeopardizes the aspiration to extend the Democratic presence in the White House for four years after Biden, I think will at least be postponed. I wish I was wrong.
Any administration from “over there” will be a challenge. There is a lot of history involved and too many mixed interests.
Meanwhile, on this side of the “strait,” consolidating the transformations that have been undertaken, making them the best possible, finding the way out of this crisis and achieving the structural changes so desired, is the best way to reach that possible time to resume what started six years earlier. On our side we have an incontestable result. Despite Trump and many previous administrations, although it is not enough, we are still here.