Florida is a hot-bed of political activity in the run-up to Tuesday’s US presidential election. The “presidents” of several Latin American dictatorships (read Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua) are hoping that Joe Biden will win.
Their hopes may be based partly on Trump campaign propaganda that Biden will be soft on left-wing dictatorships. Republicans claim Biden will take his foot off the gas pedal and ease sanctions against these autocratic leaders and governments.
What the Trump campaign fails to mention, and the Biden camp tries to emphasize, is that Biden is no softy on dictatorships. The other factor is that sanctions against Ortega and Maduro enjoy almost unanimous bipartisan support in Congress. Clearly, Biden – like Trump – would like to see big changes in Cuba. The difference between the two candidates lies in their choice of strategies.
Both Ortega and Maduro only remain in power because of force and fraudulent elections. Both have taken their cues from the Cuban model. They have a loyal military leadership and state security forces ready to squash any dissent. They’ve taken over all state powers and basically abolished human rights and justice in their countries.
Since Trump has imposed heavy sanctions on their families and key supporters, Ortega and Maduro hope Biden will change course. They are both looking for breathing room to continue consolidating their rule by force. However, Biden promises to continue demanding greater human rights and less repression in those countries.
What about Cuba?
Meanwhile, Trump’s policy on Cuba, panders to a possibly majority sector of Cuban-Americans who can vote. His actions see “squeezing the turnip dry” as the best way to rid the island of the Castro’s. The “turnip”, however, is the Cuban people on the island. They are clearly hurting badly from Trump’s punishment, much more than their rulers.
The Castro-Diaz Canel government continues to use the US embargo, and now the Trump sanctions, as a catch-all excuse. US policies allow them to justify their decades-long poor management of their near bankrupt economy, and political repression.
Biden promises a return to the Obama era rapprochement with Cuba. However, he has no love for the Cuban rulers. Obama’s policy was widely popular among Cubans who want change in their country. Interestingly, it was sharply criticized by Fidel and subsequently by Raul Castro and their Communist Party.
The Castro’s outright rejected Obama’s policy of opening more doors to Cuba. The Cuban government opposed the increased US travel, people-to-people exchanges and free flow of remittances to individuals and private businesses. They treated it as a “trojan horse” plan to subvert their rule. Their reaction was greater repression of dissenters and independent journalists and a slow-down in their own economic reform plan.
What Biden told Univision TV
Trump has vowed to continue his hardline xenophobic approach against immigrants and asylum seekers, especially from poor countries. He makes no exceptions for those seeking asylum from Nicaragua, Venezuela or Cuba. Biden told Univision that he will have a very different approach on immigration policy.
To the question: “There is a notion that under your administration, the sanctions that were imposed on these regimes would be removed or softened,” Biden responded the following:
“No, I wouldn’t soften them. Moreover, those who have already fled those countries will not be deported either.” Responding to the recent instant deportations of young Nicaraguans seeking asylum, he said: “[This applies to] Nicaraguans too.”
The candidate added: “If we are going to be tough on their governments, we cannot punish those who flee from these systems.” He added that as president he will immediately present a project granting Temporary Protective Status (TPS) to Venezuelans.
The Trump campaign continues to harp on the scare of a communist takeover of the US with Biden. That’s just one more lie of a president that has run roughshod over any form of honesty and decency. It’s unclear whether this resuscitated scare tactic will still resonate, in Florida or anywhere else.
Meanwhile, Nicaraguans, Cubans, and Venezuelans – like the rest of the world – wait with bated breath.