14ymedio, Havana, 1 October 2021 — Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez attacked President Joe Biden on Thursday, in a television interview with NBC, for maintaining “by inertia” the sanctions of his predecessor, Donald Trump.
“It is lamentable that he cannot implement his own policy on Cuba,” Rodríguez told the US network from New York, in a clear gesture of trying to get Biden’s attention. Thus, the chancellor offered the president of the United States a carrot and a stick.
“I hope that, due to the nature of this government, a positive step can be expected,” he said before noting that during Barack Obama’s term, when Biden was vice president, there was the closest rapprochement between Havana and Washington in half a century.
“The years 2015 and 2016 show that it is possible to advance towards a path of understanding, despite the profound political differences between our governments,” he stressed.
The Plaza of the Revolution clearly positioned itself in favor of Biden during the election campaign and hoped that his victory would translate into a replay of the thaw. However, throughout these ten months, the president of the United States has not shown any sign of being in a hurry to even change what he promised before winning at the polls, which was the end of limitations on remittances and flights.
The repression of the July 11 protests only hardened this position, which resulted in sanctions against the National Revolutionary Police, the so-called red berets and various officials of the Ministry of the Interior.
Analysts say that Biden has very little to gain and much to lose if he gives encouragement to Havana, since among his own ranks there are political leaders firmly opposed to relaxing sanctions, such as the influential Senator Bob Menéndez, for one. The Biden administration has insisted that it is in no rush to change anything about its relationship with Cuba and maintains that it is reviewing its policy without urgency.
“It is a terrible mistake to enforce these types of sanctions, especially in the context of the global health crisis, where all countries are struggling to contain contagions and solidarity is an imperative,” Rodríguez said yesterday, accusing the United States of being ignorant of Latin America and the Caribbean.
When asked why Cuba made the decision not to belong to the Covax program, by which poor countries can access vaccines thanks to donations from the richest, Rodríguez said that “it was not a decision,” and proceeded to praise the “high level” of Cuban science and biotechnology, which have made it possible to develop national drugs and vaccines.
The Cuban government has argued from the beginning that this mechanism is insufficient, it is not totally free and its scientists could develop their own products, so the foreign minister’s position is not surprising.
Cuba, according to the minister, has immunized almost 90% of the population, although that percentage actually corresponds to those who have one dose and only 43% have completed the vaccination schedule*.
Just hours later, Rodríguez claimed on Twitter that the US never offered him vaccines. “I assure you that the US Government has not offered vaccines to Cuba or anything to confront the pandemic. They have done the opposite, by hindering the purchase of supplies for the vaccination program and the national production of medicines,” he wrote on the social networks.
“In addition to applying Trump’s inhumane measures, which he promised to review, President Biden did not even include Cuba among the states to which the United States lifted the unilateral measures that limited their ability to confront covid-19. His callousness has cost lives,” he continues, in a message that has been endorsed by the Cuban president himself, Miguel Díaz-Canel.
“The only thing that the US Government has offered and delivered to Cuba in times of a pandemic is an opportunistic resurgence of the blockade,” the island’s president has reproached.
The US government, however, lifted restrictions on flights to send humanitarian aid to Cuba and maintains all medical supplies as an exemption from the embargo.
Bruno Rodríguez was also asked about the anti-government demonstrations on July 11 on NBC News. The foreign minister maintained, in his usual line, that many people who are experiencing financial difficulties due to the crisis in Cuba were manipulated by groups interested in encouraging the opposition from Florida.
In addition, he added that, although current conditions are harsh, due to the pandemic and the “blockade,” which aims to “suffocate the population,” the circumstances are different from those of other countries because, he maintains, in Cuba “there is no hunger, there is no poverty or unemployment. ”
*Translator’s note: Cuba’s vaccine is being given as a 3-dose series.
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