HAVANA, June 1st The Biden administration’s first major move on Cuba is the strongest signal yet it has little appetite to reverse Trump-era policies toward the island nation.
The State Department this past week listed Cuba as among those “not cooperating fully with United States antiterrorism efforts,” renewing a determination first made in 2020.
For those in favour of normalizing U.S. ties with Cuba, the move was seen as a purely political decision, but one that suggests the Biden administration may continue with the hardline approach taken by former President Trump.
“It’s a political determination, and a signal they’re trying to give the right-wing that they’re going to stick with the status quo,” said Fulton Armstrong, an American University professor and director of Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council during the Clinton administration.
“These determinations are B-O-G-U-S,” he added, criticizing the State Department for offering little insight into what factored into its decision.
The determination was made under the Arms Export Control Act, which requires a report every May listing countries barred from defence exports and sales with the U.S. Obama had removed Cuba from the list in 2015.
But the statute is also one of the three laws weighed when adding countries to the state sponsors of terrorism list — something Trump added Cuba to in the final days of his presidency.
While the Biden team has pledged to review Trump’s state sponsor of terror listing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in March that “a Cuba policy shift is not currently among President Biden’s top priorities.”
To Cubans, the latest determination looks like a continuation of the Trump era.
“The U.S. changed presidents, but it’s more of the same,” Alejandro Gil Fernández, Cuba’s deputy prime minister and top economic policy minister, wrote on Twitter.
The State Department said the decision was made after “a review of a country’s overall level of cooperation in our efforts to fight terrorism, taking into account our counterterrorism objectives with that country, and a realistic assessment of its capabilities.”(with information from THe Hill)